TUCSON, Arizona — In this completely unpredictable college basketball season, no outcome seems surprising anymore, regardless of whom it involves or where it happens. And thus, it shouldn't come as a shock that the nation's longest home win streak came to an end Thursday night.
Oregon's 83-75 win over Arizona ended a run of 49 consecutive wins for the Wildcats in McKale Center, arguably the toughest place to play in the Pac-12 Conference if not the country. Arizona hadn't lost at home in almost three years, and the Ducks hadn't stolen one in Tucson since 2012.
"I'd like to congratulate Oregon on a job well done," a dejected-looking Arizona coach Sean Miller said afterward. "I'm glad it was Oregon. They're a terrific team, they have great qualities."
Miller sounded like he was handing over a crown, the one he and the 18th-ranked Wildcats have held as the class of the Pac-12 for the last two-plus years. That honor might now belong to the 23rd-ranked Ducks, who are 17-4 and tied with the Washington Huskies at 6-2 in league play. Those teams don't meet until late February, but the unofficial tiebreaker might as well be how each has fared in Tucson.
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While the Ducks shook off an early 13-point deficit to record what ESPN broadcaster (and noted overuser of hyperbole) Bill Walton called one of the biggest wins in school history, Washington went into McKale two weeks ago as the only team yet to lose in the conference and was blown out by 32.
That's the kind of outcome that most visiting teams had experienced during Arizona's 49-game run. Since losing 77-69 to California on Feb. 10, 2013, Arizona had won its home games by an average of 22 points and its league home games by 19.7 points. Only two games were decided by one possession: an overtime win last season against Gonzaga and a 67-65 victory against Oregon in 2013-14.
Senior forward Dwayne Benjamin wasn't on that Ducks team, but he was on the squad that won 26 games last season but got run by 34 when they visited Arizona last January.
"This is the toughest (place) that I've played in," said Benjamin, whose 15 points included a key three-pointer as the shot clock was expiring that gave Oregon a 52-46 lead five minutes into the second half.
Oregon did what for nearly three years seemed impossible—though this season in college hoops the impossible doesn't exist—by maintaining its composure after the early hole and doing whatever it could to quiet a crowd that during the win streak had rarely had to panic.
"We knew that if we got on the boards, exploited our mismatches and got turnovers we could win," sophomore forward Dillon Brooks said. "It's a big streak to break. It's an amazing feeling."
As much as the Ducks were responsible for snapping the streak, Arizona was just as much to blame. It turned the ball over 19 times, which enabled Oregon to take 21 more shots than the Wildcats. Arizona also allowed Oregon to shoot 57.7 percent in the second half and 51.6 percent overall.
"They played much better than us," said senior forward Ryan Anderson, who apologized to fans as well as former coaches and players who had helped build the home win streak. "We're not up to the standards that we hold ourselves to."
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This streak's end seemed inevitable based on how Arizona has performed this season. Its first three league losses had come by only a combined six points, including one in quadruple-overtime, but at 4-4 in the Pac-12 the two-time defending regular-season champs are a shell of the team that made consecutive Elite Eights in 2014 and 2015.
And not just because many of the players involved in those runs are gone, or because its top scorer—freshman guard Allonzo Trier—has been out with a broken finger.
Not having Trier has caused the Wildcats to find other ways to score, but that hasn't changed what remains Miller's worst defensive team since taking over the program in 2009-10. It's probably also the least cohesive unit he's had, despite a lineup that features four seniors and a junior, an almost unheard-of level of experience at the power-conference level.
"I've never been more down looking at a team I've coached than what I just saw," Miller said. "Right now, things are going to get worse before they get better."
|Other Top CBB Teams' Home Record During AZ's Streak|
|Connecticut||39-11||Lost vs. Cincinnati Thursday|
|Duke||46-3||Lost last two home games|
|Iowa State||43-4||Last two losses to Baylor|
|Kansas||44-1||Current home win streak at 34 games|
|Kentucky||51-2||Current home win streak at 32 games|
|Louisville||48-6||Current home win streak at 14 games|
|Michigan State||36-10||Longest win streak during time period: nine games|
|San Diego State||44-5||Includes 2013-14 loss vs. Arizona|
|UCLA||43-6||Lost vs. Washington Thursday|
|Bleacher Report research|
One more win and Arizona would have gotten to 50 straight in McKale, but that still would have only been the third-longest streak in school history. It had a 71-game home win streak from 1987-92 and ran off 81 consecutive victories at the old Bear Down Gym (which doubled as temporary quarters for freshmen in the iconic '80s movie Revenge of the Nerds) from 1945-51.
Those other two streaks are among the 10 longest in NCAA history, making Arizona the only school that appears twice in the top 10.
Now the longest active home win streak in the country belongs to Wichita State, which won its 42nd straight at Charles Koch Arena on Wednesday. Based on how the 2015-16 season is going throughout college basketball, the Shockers should be wary when it hosts Southern Illinois next week.
All quotes obtained firsthand, unless otherwise noted.
Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.
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