There is a force to be reckoned with “Deep in the Woods.”
The Oregon men’s basketball team scored a landmark win for the program as the Ducks, on the cusp of the Top 25, upset the No. 4 Arizona Wildcats on Thursday evening, 70-66.
Fans flooded the court as time expired, capping a night in Matthew Knight Arena that held an atmosphere Mac Court once possessed.
“The crowd had unbelievable energy tonight,” said Altman. “The students were backing us all the way. “That was a lot of fun for our guys, the energy in the locker room, all the players talked about was being out there in the circle with everybody piling on.”
The action on the floor matched the fervor of the fans in the stands, as a loud and proud contingent of 9,544 Duck fans watched the Ducks close out what ended as a tight game but for the most part was one-sided.
The highest ranked team to ever play in Matthew Knight Arena, Arizona was one of three undefeated teams in all of college hoops before the game began at 14-0, the best start in 81 years for the team from Tucson.
A resurgent Oregon basketball program that went 8-23 just four years ago, secured a breakthrough win in its triumph over the Wildcats, improved to 13-2 on the year and extended its home winning streak to 17.
“It is pretty much indescribable, I am just so happy,” said E.J. Singler. “I think this is a landmark victory.”
The Ducks could not have gotten off to a worse start regardless of opponents, but especially against a top squad like Arizona as three, three-pointers from the Wildcats and a jump-shot put Oregon behind, 11-0 to start the contest.
“We weren’t quite ready to start that game it looked like,” said Altman. “But the guys really fought back.”
The home squad in lightning yellow and kelly green responded quickly and with strength. Carlos Emory notched a jumper and a swooshed a three. Dominic Artis chimed in with another Duck make from beyond the arc to quickly cut the deficit to three. Four other ducks made baskets and just three and half minutes after being down 11-0, Oregon lead 16-13 with just over 13 minutes to play in the half.
Arizona hung tough to regain a five-point lead at 25-20. That is when the Ducks’ defense started playing some of its best basketball of the season and Matthew Knight Arena exploded like Vesuvius circa 79 A.D.
Oregon extinguished the vaunted ‘Zona offensive which translated to a wildfire on the Ducks scoring end. The unranked Ducks were in total control over one of the nation’s best squads, going on a 21-3 scoring streak over a span of eight minutes including a five-minute, 11-0 stretch. It all started with an Artis baseline drive equated into an assist for a monster Tony Woods. E.J. Singler pilfered the ball and took to the other end for a basket and one to put UO ahead 30-26.
A pair of Waverly Austin swats had all of the fans in Matt Knight on their feet and the arena shook when Artis registered a three-ball. A moment later Woods hammered home another thunderous slam to put Oregon ahead 37-28. The Ducks would reach 41-28 before their incredible run was halted and the half ended with Oregon having won the first half, 41-30.
With five minutes left, Arizona found itself in dire straits, behind by 13 at 65-52, needing a big run in the home stretch for a hope of victory. The Cats hit three threes and clawed to within three points at 69-66. With 20 seconds left Arizona had the ball with a chance to attempt a game-tying shot but Loyd pick-pocketed Nick Johnson and after an intentional foul, sealed the win, making one of two free throws.
Mark Lyons and Solomon Hill were tops in scoring for Arizona with 21 and 16, respectively.
Singler led the Ducks with 14 while Emory, Woods and Artis each added 10.
Turning point: The Ducks finished the first half on a 21-5 run and never lost momentum en route to the upset win.
On the horizon: Oregon will look to stay perfect at home and in Pac-12 play as they host Arizona State on Sunday.