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Arizona routs Oregon in Pac-12 final, and party may just be starting

No. 5 Arizona romps past Oregon 80-52 to secure Pac-12 title and, perhaps, a No. 1 seeding in NCAA tournament

Even before Rondae Hollis-Jefferson threw down a dunk and danced the entire way down the court, the Pac-12 Conference tournament final had turned into one long party for Arizona.

The Wildcats, whose fans packed the MGM Grand Garden Arena for Saturday night's game against Oregon, have been the class of the Pac-12 in the four years since expansion, but until Saturday, it had been haunted by tournament play. It hasn't reached the Final Four since 2001. And, strangely, it hadn't won a conference title since 2002.

That is, until Saturday, when Arizona dismantled the Ducks, 80-52, to cruise to the Pac-12 championship.

This season could be Arizona's best shot to break both streaks. The No. 5-ranked Wildcats are in contention for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, and have now made a strong closing statement.

Arizona (31-3) has shown the NCAA selection committee that there are few better defensive teams. The Ducks came in as Pac-12 co-leaders (with Arizona) in scoring, but were held 24 points below their average.

Joseph Young scored the Ducks' first five points within two minutes, but after the quick start, Arizona Coach Sean Miller had T.J. McConnell defend Young.

After the switch, Young didn't score for the next 15 minutes, during which the Wildcats went on a 14-0 run. Oregon never recovered.

Young finished with 19 points, but by the time he found his rhythm, Arizona was in control. The Wildcats led by as many as 32 points in the second half. McConnell finished with 12 points and six assists.

Oregon (25-9) had been picked to finish eighth in the Pac-12's preseason media poll, but on Saturday, the Ducks were confident and streaking, having won seven in a row. But they were no match for Arizona's size.

Wildcats forward Brandon Ashley again had one of the best games of his career, with 20 points. Ashley missed last season's tournament because of a season-ending foot injury, and Arizona wasn't the same without him. Now, in the last two tournament games, he has scored 44 points.

The Wildcats had made the conference final three times in the previous four seasons. Each time, they lost in excruciating fashion. In 2011, Washington won in overtime on Isaiah Thomas' fade-away buzzer-beater.

A year later, Colorado beat Arizona by two, and last season, UCLA won after Jordan Adams drained a three-pointer with one minute left.

This time, Arizona left nothing to chance.

zach.helfand@latimes.com

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