LAS VEGAS (AP) — Through all the success the Arizona Wildcats have had, the regular-season titles, the deep NCAA Tournament runs, they were hounded with one question: When are you going to win the Pac-12 Tournament again?
They had an emphatic answer, turning MGM Grand Arena into one giant Wildcat party.
Finally playing their best under the conference’s brightest lights, No. 5 Arizona ended 13 years of frustration with a dominating 80-52 win over Oregon in the Pac-12 Tournament championship game Saturday night.
“When anyone asks when Arizona last won the Pac-12 championship, you tell them 2015,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said after accepting the championship trophy from conference Commissioner Larry Scott.
Top-seeded Arizona (31-3) won the regular-season title and reached the tournament finale for the second straight year with two convincing wins.
The Wildcats rolled over Oregon in a dominating first half of the championship game, building a 15-point lead with a flurry of 3-pointers and transition baskets in what felt like a home game with so many Arizona fans in the stands.
The Wildcats let up a little defensively in the second half, but were even better on offense to polish off their first Pac-12 championship since Lute Olson was coach and Luke Walton was tournament MVP in 2002.
Tournament most outstanding player Brandon Ashley scored 20 points and Stanley Johnson added 14 for Arizona.
T.J. McConnell had 12 points and six assists for the Wildcats, who shot 54 percent and could be in line for a No. 1 seed when the NCAA Tournament bracket is announced on Sunday.
“For every great team, there comes a point where you really have to come together as a team and we’ve done a great job of doing that,” Ashley said after celebrating under a mammoth shower of confetti at center court. “It’s just the right time; everyone seems to be clicking.”
Oregon (25-9) was out of it almost from the start after Arizona went on two big first-half runs. The Ducks played better offensively in the second half, but had no chances of catching the racing Wildcats.
Joseph Young had 19 points Dillon Brooks added 13 and for Oregon, which still should be in good position to get an NCAA Tournament invite on Selection Sunday.
“The way it ended, everybody hates to lose, but at the same time, this is a young team and we’ve just got to use it as a learning experience,” Young said.
Arizona has been in this spot before; the Wildcats were playing in their fourth Pac-12 championship game in Sean Miller’s six years as coach.
Winning it has been another story. Arizona Pac 12 title drought included a loss to UCLA in the championship game last season.
The Wildcats won the regular-season title and got to this year’s championship game by beating California and UCLA.
Oregon had a strong finish to the regular season, then beat Colorado and Utah to strengthen its NCAA Tournament chances.
Arizona rolled over the Ducks twice during the regular season, winning by 18 in Eugene and 24 in Tucson.
The Wildcats did it to the Ducks again, blowing past them with a 14-0 run in the first half and another 10-0 spurt to lead 36-21 at halftime.
Arizona hit 15 of 31 shots, had eight offensive rebounds and held the Ducks to 7-of-25 shooting. The Wildcats also hounded Young, holding him to seven points — two after a quick flurry to start the game — on 2-of-10 shooting.
“Throughout the first half, our shot selection was not good,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said. “The ball didn’t get moved, we took some off-balance ones, some very contested shots. Arizona is a very good defensive team and they got us out of our offensive rhythm for sure.”
Oregon played better offensively in the second half and Young got untracked. The Ducks made 11 of 20 shots and Young confidently stroked in jumpers, scoring 13 in the half.
Oregon never put a dent in Arizona’s lead, though, because it couldn’t stop the Wildcats.
Arizona made 15 of 24 shots in the second half, stretching the lead even more as the clock wound down to put itself in position for a No. 1 seed.
“We’re in the conversation,” Miller said.
Oregon: Elgin Cook and Arizona’s Kaleb Tarczewski were called for double technical fouls in the second half after getting tangled and jawing at each other. … A few minutes later, Young was hit with a Flagrant 1 foul for taking a swipe at Tarczewski while fighting for a loose ball.
Arizona: The Wildcats had a 36-18 advantage in the paint and 37-20 rebounding. … Rondae Hollis-Jefferson had had seven points, nine rebounds and five assists.
Oregon is likely headed to the NCAA Tournament.
Arizona is hoping for a high seed in the NCAA Tournament
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