(Here is a story from Gary Horowitz of the Salem (Ore.) Statesman Journal, one of our Gannett partners. For coverage of the Arizona’s opponent this week, check out the Statesman Journal’s Sports page.)
By Gary Horowitz
EUGENE — Oregon guard Johnathan Loyd called today’s matchup against No. 4 Arizona the biggest game yet at Matthew Knight Arena, which opened two years ago.
He might be to something.
Arizona is the highest-ranked team to visit Matt Court, and a victory by the Ducks likely would push them into the Top 25.
“Being able to give them their first loss, that would be great,” Loyd said.
Oregon coach Dana Altman jokingly chided Loyd for buying into the biggest game scenario.
“Johnny doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” Altman said with a smile. “I talk about our team being so quiet, Johnny’s the one guy who talks. But he doesn’t always say the right things.”
Altman can talk all he wants about how the Arizona game is “no bigger than the other eight conference games at home,” but it represents a barometer game for the Ducks.
When it comes to selecting teams for the NCAA tournament, these are the kind of games that are resume builders.
“It’s gonna be a really good opportunity,” said senior forward Arsalan Kazemi, a transfer from Rice who leads the Ducks in rebounding. “Obviously, they’re ranked fourth now. If we beat them it’s gonna give us a very good chance to be ranked.”
It won’t be easy.
Arizona is a veteran team with senior leadership at the point in Mark Lyons (14.1 ppg), a transfer from Xavier who was part of three Sweet 16 teams. The Wildcats have defeated two ranked teams – then-No. 5 Florida and then-No. 17 San Diego State – and managed to prevail in several close games.
Senior forward Solomon Hill (13.3 ppg, 5.3 rpg) and sophomore guard Nick Johnson (12.2 ppg) also are averaging in double figures for Arizona.
Oregon is 1-1 against ranked opponents with a victory against then-No. 18 UNLV and a loss to then-No. 22 Cincinnati.
The Ducks have won 16 consecutive home games dating back to last season, but Matt Court has yet to match the raucous atmosphere of Oregon’s former home at McArthur Court.
“You want your home court to have great electricity in the building, excitement in the building,” Altman said. “But that’s something you don’t beg for, you don’t ask for, you just hope it develops.”
Oregon has received solid play from the freshmen backcourt duo of Damyean Dotson (11.8 ppg) and Dominic Artis (10.1 ppg). Senior center Tony Woods (10.8 ppg), and senior forwards Carlos Emory (10.3 ppg) and E.J. Singler (10.2 ppg) also are averaging in double figures.
Kazemi (8.5 ppg) leads the Pac-12 in steals (2.8) and is third in rebounding (9.8).
The Ducks are coming off a 79-66 victory at Oregon State.
“It gives us a lot of confidence coming into this game,” Loyd said.