TUCSON, Ariz. (AP)—Aaron Brooks will always remember his 22nd birthday.
Oregon’s star point guard banked a shot over two defenders with 2 seconds left to give No. 15 Oregon a 79-77 victory over 10th-ranked Arizona on Sunday night.
Brooks finished with 21 points to lead the Ducks (16-1, 4-1 Pac-10) to their second victory over a Top 10 team in eight days. Oregon beat then-No. 1 UCLA on Jan. 6.
“Down the stretch, we put the ball in the hand of Mr. Big Shot,” said Oregon guard Malik Hairston, who scored 18 points. “We call him that because he makes the big shots just like Chauncey Billups (of the Detroit Pistons).”
Brooks hit a couple of biggies to help lead the Ducks to their first road sweep of the Pac-10’s Arizona schools.
He nailed a 3-pointer to tie it 77 with 1:50 to play. After Arizona senior point guard Mustafa Shakur turned the ball over, Oregon coach Ernie Kent called timeout and set up a play that calls for Brooks to penetrate. If he can’t get a shot, Brooks is supposed to dish to one of Oregon’s 3-point snipers.
But Brooks said he never thought about passing after he made his initial move, driving the right side of the lane and banking a shot high off the glass.
“I had a ball screen and I came off it and it was one-on-one after that,” Brooks said. “I was in position to take the shot and it went in. Coach put a lot of trust in me.”
Arizona coach Lute Olson said the Wildcats knew what was coming and still couldn’t stop it.
“We knew he was going to go right,” Olson said. “The thing he does so well, he shoots that runner way up on the top of the board. He made a great shot.”
The Wildcats will be happy to see the senior from Seattle graduate. This is the second time the Ducks have beaten Arizona on his birthday; Brooks scored 17 as Oregon knocked off the Wildcats 73-68 on Jan. 14, 2006, in Eugene.
“There was no doubt in my mind who we were giving the last shot to,” Kent said. “It was great execution by everyone. It was an incredible play.”
Kent reached 180 career victories, moving into a tie with W.J. Reinhart for second place on the school’s wins list. The leader is Howard Hobson with 212.
Brooks has played a part in many of those victories. Against Arizona, the speedy, tireless Brooks played all 40 minutes and had six assists and only one turnover. He also outplayed his counterpart, Shakur, in the final minutes.
Bryce Taylor also scored 21 points for Oregon, and Maarty Leunen had 14 points and 14 rebounds.
Oregon couldn’t exhale until Marcus Williams’ fallaway 18-footer clanged off the rim at the buzzer. Williams scored a career-high 34 points and had 12 rebounds for Arizona (13-3, 4-2) in the Wildcats’ second loss in three games.
Williams has been the most productive player on the Pac-10’s most explosive offense. He came into the game shooting 63.0 percent from the floor in conference play.
Against Oregon, Williams didn’t score until almost four minutes into the game. But he scored 17 points in the next 12 minutes.
“Both teams played good enough to win,” Williams said. “Oregon just played better at the end.”
The Ducks scored seven straight points to take a 62-56 lead midway through the second half. But the Wildcats went on an 8-0 run to take a 73-68 lead on Williams’ emphatic dunk with 5:15 to go.
That play fired up the McKale Center crowd. But it turned out to be Arizona’s final field goal.
Kent said his team had developed a toughness last year, when it struggled to a 15-18 record, and it showed in the critical final minutes. The Ducks have already passed last year’s win total. And they are 6-0 away from home.
“They have gone through the adversity,” Kent said. “I can’t tell you the adversity they went through. They never gave up after last year. It’s been like a slingshot that has catapulted them.”