Arizona can’t afford letdown at Oregon State

T.J. McConnell had 21 points in Arizona's win over Utah on Thursday night in Eugene.

As Sean Miller pointed out this week, victories over Oregon and Oregon State are weighted exactly the same in the Pac-12 standings.

The point he was making is that all the good Arizona accomplished in a convincing win over the Ducks on Thursday night could be undone by an inferior effort against the Beavers on Sunday night in Corvallis (8 p.m., MT, FOX Sports 1).

"Every game is the same," Miller said this week. "If you beat Oregon you don’t get 1.5 wins; if you lose to Oregon State, you don’t get minus two.  … I’ve learned in the Pac-12, boy, those (sweeps) are hard to come by. Even in some of our best teams — prior to me arriving — there were a lot of splits on the road, very few sweeps."

Miller will try to keep his Wildcats from the kind of letdown that tends to happen in the Pac-12 when a team goes on the road and wins the first of a two-game road trip.

While the Ducks have been a more difficult opponent than the Beavers in recent years, the Wildcats haven’t had an easy time in Corvallis during the Miller era: two wins in four meetings.

And Corvallis hasn’t been tough only on Arizona — the Beavers (10-4, 1-1 Pac-12) have won 10 consecutive home games after Thursday night’s 55-47 win over Arizona State. Arizona, meanwhile, is 14-1 and 2-0 in the Pac-12 following an 80-62 win in Eugene over Oregon.

All five Arizona starters — a new lineup that featured both Stanley Johnson and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson — scored in double figures in the Oregon win and the Wildcats dominated the Ducks in most every aspect. Oregon State, under first-year coach Wayne Tinkle, forced 16 ASU turnovers, out-rebounded the Sun Devils 34-25 and got strong efforts from Malcolm Duvivier (15 points) and Gary Payton Jr. (12 points) in its victory.

The Wildcats prepped for their first Pac-12 road trip by visiting a pair of hostile non-conference environments in late December: UTEP and UNLV. They walked away with a hard-fought win over UTEP and a humbling loss to UNLV.

"The great part about both of those games is we dealt with a good team and we dealt with a hostile crowd," Miller said. "They were two teams that were keyed up for our game and they were back-to-back, so it kind of represented a Pac-12 trip. I think that helps us simulate what’s to come."

The Oregon swing is Arizona’s only Thursday-Sunday road trip of the Pac-12 season — unlike a year ago, when every road trip involved an extra day away. The remainder of this season’s trips are Thursday-Saturday or Friday-Sunday.

"It takes the takes the grind away a little bit," Miller said of having to do just one long trip this season. "I credit the Pac-12 and the cooperation of the coaches and the Pac-12 front office to recognize that if we put our minds around something, we can help that.

"We’ve made traveling a little bit more realistic than last year."

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