Wildcats try to solve Oregon State’s zone in rematch
TUCSON, Ariz. — Arizona Wildcats coach Sean Miller is well aware it will be a test of wills and patience when Oregon State visits McKale Center on Friday night.
"The one thing about our game (basketball) is that there are so many different styles," Miller said on Thursday afternoon before preparing for the Beavers. "Some teams pressure, others don’t. Teams play screens different ways."
It will be up to Arizona (19-2, 7-1 in Pac-12 Conference) to figure out how to deal with Oregon State’s aggressive zone, which had Arizona in knots in the first meeting this season. Arizona shot just 37.7 percent and hit only 4 of 17 3-pointers as the Beavers won 58-56 and beat a top 10 team for the first time in 15 years.
Now, Oregon State (14-6, 5-3) will try to do it again, hoping to sweep Arizona for the first time since 1983.
Zone defenses have given Arizona trouble most of the season as UA took some time to find its offensive rhythm from its half-court sets. But the Wildcats have discovered their offensive flow since losing to the Beavers on Jan. 11, although Arizona hasn’t been facing teams that play a zone like Oregon State does.
In any case, Arizona has played some of its best basketball in the last two weeks.
"We’re on the right track," Miller said of his offense. "(But) obviously (Friday) represents a much different test. It’s not a high-possession game. It’s not a game that will be in the 70s. They do a really good job of keeping the pace deliberate on offense."
A very good job, in fact. Oregon State ranks seventh nationally in field goal percentage defense (36.6) and 12th in scoring defense (56.7 points per game). Historically, teams that are deliberate, that limit possessions, have given UA trouble, dating to the Lute Olson years. Through the years, games in the NCAA Tournament are played the same way.
"I know that everybody is trying real hard to be a real good defensive team," Miller said.
Arizona will have to find a way to get Oregon State to move. When asked if he would consider going with a full-court press to pick up the tempo, Miller was hesitant.
"We could, but you’re not going to all of sudden put up (something you don’t do all the time)," he said. "We have a style, they have a style and we just have to do a great job at our style."
In other words, Arizona has to use its athletic frontline and its better talent to get the job done, no matter what Oregon State throws at them.
"We have to adapt," Miller said. "We can’t get caught up in not liking the game because they are slower. … Every time you play an opponent it requires concentration."
And that means few turnovers, good shot selection and, well, execution. Arizona State did that on Thursday in routing Oregon State 73-55. The Beavers’ zone proved to be ineffective.
"Arizona State really moved the ball," Miller said. "They were very unselfish and made the extra pass and knocked down a number of threes."