Arizona-Oregon State matchup features opposite extremes of Pac-12 standings

Arizona coach Sean Miller talks with guard Allonzo Trier during last week's game vs. Washington State.
Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

No game in the Pac-12 appears to be more lopsided than Thursday’s matchup pitting No. 5 Arizona at Oregon State.

The Wildcats (20-2, 9-0) are undefeated at the halfway mark of conference play for the first time since 1998. The Beavers (4-18, 0-9) are at the opposite end of the standings and will still be without sophomore standout Tres Tinkle (wrist) when the teams meet in Corvallis, Ore.

Arizona moved from seventh to fifth in The Associated Press poll after a chaotic week in the top 10, although the Wildcats played two closer-than-expected games in a home sweep of Washington State and Washington. The Oregon State game figures to serve as a final tuneup for Saturday’s showdown with No. 13 Oregon, which is one loss behind Arizona in the conference standings.

“We earned the right to win both games,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said. “We made good plays when we need to. We did do some good things. I’m not going to spin it and act like death is among us. …

“It’s very difficult to be very good every game.”

For Arizona, more optimism comes from having guard Allonzo Trier, who missed the first 19 games of the season because of an NCAA suspension following a positive test for performance-enhancing drugs.

Trier is averaging 13.7 points and 5.7 rebounds in three games, and he has 14 assists with just two turnovers. Trier had only 31 assists in 27 games last season, when he averaged 14.8 points as a freshman.

“I’m really happy with him,” Miller said.

“Missing 19 games is an odd thing. But he’s really embraced a number of the things that we fully expected him to do as far back as October. That is, he’s a much better ball-handler and passer. He sees the court a lot better. He plays with his teammates a lot easier.”

Trier has been coming off the bench, but he’s still averaging 28.3 minutes and could soon return to the starting lineup, Miller said.

The combination of Trier and 7-foot freshman Lauri Markkanen is a potent scoring punch. Markkanen is averaging 16.8 points and is one of the top 3-point shooters in the country, making 50.5 percent (54 of 107).

The Wildcats have plenty of balance after that. Other double-digit scorers are center Dusan Ristic (11.9), guard Kobi Simmons (11.8), wing Rawle Alkins (11.7) and guard Kadeem Allen (10.1).

Arizona struggled against Washington’s active 2-3 zone in a 77-66 victory on Sunday and is likely to see plenty of that defense from Oregon State.

The Beavers typically play at a slow pace and are the lowest-scoring team in the league at 64.5 points per game. Tinkle averaged 20.2 points through six games before being sidelined by injury. There is no timetable for his return.

“Still no updates,” Oregon State coach Wayne Tinkle, Tres’ father, said Tuesday. “He’s not going to play this weekend. That’s where it is.”

Oregon State does have some firepower in guard Stephen Thompson III, coming off a career-high 30-point game at Utah. The sophomore is averaging 17.1 points per game.

Sophomore post Drew Eubanks is averaging 14.9 points and 8.5 rebounds for the Beavers, who will be trying to stop Arizona’s 14-game winning streak.

“The best is yet to come,” Miller said. “As our team and (Trier) play together more, it will be more seamless moving forward.”