The crowd was buzzing. The yellow-clad Pit Crew was filled up long before normal, and the students were hyped. The pep band was rocking.
ESPN2 with Bill Walton was in the house.
A stirring rendition of the national anthem helped create the kind of electricity that has mostly been absent from Matthew Knight Arena since its opening two years ago.
The noise meter crackled. The build up was immense. #4 Arizona, undefeated after 14 games. The opportunity was there. You could sense it.
Then, three quick three pointers by the Wildcats and a layup thrown in, and it was 11-0, Arizona. 3:05 in. The Ducks were on their heels, and the crowd had quickly been taken out of the game.
Carlos Emory, starting his second straight game, began the Duck comeback with a tough, driving jumper. After a Duck steal, he hit a three pointer to reignite the crowd.
After Arizona sprinted out to their early lead, Oregon outscored the Wildcats 41-19 to take a 11-point edge into intermission, 41-30.
The Ducks, playing their most complete game of the season, held on in the second half to upset the previously unbeaten Wildcats, 70-66, in a huge statement win for the team.
In the second half, the Ducks controlled the game, fighting off numerous Wildcat challenges before a late Arizona charge made it a one-possession game with under a minute left.
After an Oregon miss with 19 seconds left, as the shot clock was winding down, Arizona rebounded. As the Wildcats brought the ball into front court, Jonathan Lloyd made a huge steal and was fouled with 9.2 seconds left.
Coach Dana Altman gave a huge assist to the crowd, the special atmosphere, and especially the students.
He said, “They were unbelievable! When we got down early, the students really got us going. The energy that came from the crowd tonight was tremendous.”
Altman said, “There was so much energy in our locker room and all the guys talked about was the circle on the court and the piling on after the game and the students.”
9,544 were in attendance for the Ducks 17th consecutive home win.
“There was tremendous energy. It was a lot of fun,” said Altman.
Coach Altman was pleased with his team’s first half effort. He said, ‘We fought back and I thought the guys did a great job. We moved the ball and had 12 of our 17 assists in the first half.”
“I like to see more assists than turnovers. We had four fewer turnovers than our average tonight, and that was critical.”
After their slow start, the Ducks came out firing. Oregon was particularly effective going inside and then out for open looks on outside shots.
The Ducks shot 56.7% from the field in the first half, before cooling to 48.1% for the game.
Singler was instrumental in the win. He scored 14 points, had seven rebounds, seven assists, and three steals. He was the glue that helped the team from unravelling down the stretch.
Altman said, “E.J. was the difference tonight. He’s gaining more and more confidence.”
Four Ducks were in double figures. Besides Singler, Emory, Tony Woods, and Dominic Artis scored 10 points apiece.
Arsalan Kazemi came off the bench to grab a team-high eight rebounds as Arizona outrebounded the Ducks, 32-28.
Altman downplayed the significance of making a big win on January 10th bigger than it is.
He said, “It’s a good win tonight, but it’s just a start. I’d be real disappointed if this is the high mark of our season. If that’s the case, then this team will have really underachieved.”
The win improves Oregon’s record to 13-2 overall, and 2-0 in the Pac-12.
It sets up another big game on Sunday night when Arizona State visits Matt Knight Arena at 6:00 pm. The coach knows that all the excitement over Thursday’s win will mean little if the Ducks aren’t ready to play ASU.