Oregon Pulls the Plug on the “Cardiac Cats”Posted by Rockne Roll on January 11th, 2013
Rockne Roll is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after Thursday night’s Oregon-Arizona game in Eugene.
The Arizona Wildcats have been comeback specialists all season. Against Florida, on Christmas Day, and the miracle in Colorado, the “Cardiac Cats” have earned their nickname. So when they went into the locker room of Matthew Knight Arena at halftime down 11 points to the Oregon Ducks, it probably wasn’t a particularly big cause for concern. Rather the concern was with Oregon, as they knew it was going to be an enormous challenge just to hold on. After all, Arizona had opened the game on an 11-0 run, forcing the Ducks to claw their way back. Even after besting their in-state rival earlier in the week, Oregon knew this was going to be an enormous challenge. “We knew from the start they were going to make a run at it,” said Ducks guard Jonathan Loyd. And make a run they did. The Cats cut the lead from 11 at the half to eight with about six minutes to go, until E.J. Singler, who had been a little spotty so far this season before the Oregon State game, drained a three and made two freebies on the next possession to bring the advantage back to 13.
But Arizona wasn’t done, as the Wildcats came on again late to cut the lead to four with 1:20 to play off a Mark Lyons three. When Lyons fouled on the other end, though, it looked like the “Cardiac Cats” were on life support. And Singler was there to pull the plug, draining two foul shots to make it a six-point game. Even after Nick Johnson hit from deep to bring it back to a one-possession game, Loyd grabbed a steal and was promptly fouled. He hit one of two to make the lead four, and a rebound by Singler as time expired made it official. Arizona’s perfect season was dead, left on MKA’s oddly-painted floor to be trampled by a hoard of screaming Oregon students who rushed the court to celebrate one of the biggest wins in recent memory for Oregon.
“It’s pretty much indescribable,” were Singler’s first words after the game. “I’d say this is the biggest win of my career. We pushed through and got the job done. This is just the start, we have a lot of goals.” When asked what those goals were, Singler said flatly, “Win the Pac-12.” Not so long ago, the idea of Oregon winning the conference would have been just silly. Now, who knows?
And while Singler, Loyd, and Waverly Austin all had big nights, much of the credit for the victory went to the Oregon student section. Since the move from the hallowed reaches of MacArthur Court, a place still venerated by the Duck faithful, the atmosphere at Duck games has been on the tamer side. Tonight was different. The students were so numerous that extra seating was made available and a sea of “Pit Crew” shirts reached the upper deck of the arena, making the arena as loud as any building in college hoops. After one of the big plays late that helped seal it for the Ducks, a photographer who had covered quite a few games at the new arena turned and said, barely audible above the din: “Now this is college basketball.” He wasn’t the only one who was impressed. “The Pit Crew was on fire, they really made a difference in this game,” Singler said. “The students were great tonight, that was a lot of fun for our players.” So, in the end, it was most appropriate that students and players mingled together in the sea of celebration that amassed on the floor of Matthew Knight Arena. After all, it was their win too.