Simon Asher for Tucson Weekly
Arizona forward Ira Lee, Center, fights for a rebound during the Arizona-Oregon game on January 17 in Tucson, Ariz. Lee finished the game with nine points.
A steady stream of red-clad fans scurried out of the oversized exits at McKale Center in the waning minutes of Thursday's Arizona-Oregon basketball game.
The 14,032 fans in attendance left in advance of the final buzzer, with the home side's fate in-hand, and a rare home loss handed to the Wildcats (13-5, 4-1) by the visiting Oregon Ducks.
It was a result that echoed through the vaunted venue, leaving players and coaches stammering in its wake.
For longtime Arizona coach Sean Miller, the night's result was a result of poor ball-handling, mixed with badly-timed shots and improper execution.
"Our shot selection, our ball movement, and our turnovers were much better in the second half than the first half. But clearly our offense was a problem here tonight," Miller said. "And I'll also tell you that there's been many games that we've won, and had to overcome that night when the ball isn't going in, but you have to do it with great defense. Tonight our defense was good, but it's the furthest from great."
The Wildcats' road to defeat started with the team's nine turnovers in the game's first half, combined with what Miller called five three-point shots that never should have happened.
The net result was a deficit that draped across the home side's backs throughout the night, ultimately proving too heavy to overcome.
"We took some challenged tough threes. We had gotten away from that, and that had really served us well," Miller said. "But I would say at halftime we didn't have nine turnovers, we really had 14 because we took five just horrible, challenged, selfish shots."
Junior forward Chase Jeter, who led the Wildcats in scoring (12) and rebounding (10), heaped praise on the Ducks' relentless effort on both sides of the ball.
The Duke University transfer admitted that the Ducks' relentless press defense was too much for the home side to overcome, resulting in Arizona's second home loss of the season.
"They played really hard tonight. I think initially we were blown back by that. After a while, our effort just wasn't good enough to win tonight," Jeter said. "I think that Oregon played very hard, and we owe them a lot of credit."
The Ducks' defense limited Arizona's leading scorer, Brandon Randolph, to a season-low five points on 2-of-9 shooting.
They limited Arizona to hitting 36.5 percent of their shots from the field, well below their yearly average of 45.2 percent.
Sophomore forward Ira Lee, who scored 9 points for Arizona on Thursday, acknowledged that the home side's offense wasn't up to par against the Ducks.
"We definitely were getting good shots, they just weren't falling," Lee said. "It was one of those games where if we did wanna win it was gonna be on the defensive end. And we were playing good defense, but coach said we could've played great defense. So it definitely made a huge difference in the game."
The Wildcats host Oregon State at 5 p.m. on Saturday, against a Beavers squad that's 11-5 overall, and 3-1 in conference play.
The game, which will be carried on the Pac-12 Network, pits two teams coming off their first conference losses of the year.
The Beavers also lost on Thursday, falling to Arizona State, 70-67, in Tempe. They previously beat Oregon, USC and UCLA to open conference play.
Jeter believes the Wildcats' will be ready to play at a higher level on both sides of the ball come Saturday evening.
"We've got Oregon State on Saturday so it's a new game, it's a chance for everybody to bounce back," he said. "And I think we're gonna do a good job responding."