Freshmen lead way as Arizona handles Oregon State
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Aaron Gordon had 17 points, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson added 16 and No. 2 Arizona found its shooting touch in a 76-54 win over Oregon State on Sunday night.
After two weeks of struggles on offense, Arizona (23-1, 10-1 Pac-12) finally found some answers in its second game without injured forward Brandon Ashley.
The Wildcats took control with a big run to end the first half and kept the Beavers from mounting a rally by shooting 50 percent.
T.J. McConnell had 11 points, six rebounds and six assists for Arizona, which has won 30 of its past 31 against Oregon State at McKale Center.
After rallying against Arizona State in its previous game, Oregon State (13-10, 5-6) had little chance against the athletic Wildcats, unable to spring Roberto Nelson or chip away at Arizona’s 10-point halftime lead.
Nelson, the Pac-12’s leading scorer, had 10 points on 3-of-12 shooting. Angus Brandt led the Beavers with 14 points.
Shooting has been Arizona’s problem in recent weeks. The Wildcats have shot 37 percent over the past four games and gone just 18 of 70 (25 percent) from 3-point range.
Arizona won four of those five games behind its defense, particularly with big stops late.
The Wildcats did it against Oregon in their last game as they struggled offensively without Ashley, shutting down the Ducks in the final 3 minutes to win 67-65 on Thursday after trailing most of the second half.
Arizona had some shooting woes early against Oregon State, but two freshmen helped the Wildcats break out of it.
Hollis-Jefferson opened with a turnaround jumper out of the post, then hit a couple of baskets around the rim, scoring nine by halftime.
Gordon scored on a tip-in, a coast-to-coast layup after a steal and dropped in his first 3-pointer since Dec. 19, a no-hesitation shot from the corner. He had 11 points at the half.
McConnell took it from there, hitting a variety of jumpers in the lane, then setting up Gabe York for a 3-pointer to cap a half-ending 12-3 run that put the Wildcats up 37-27. Arizona made 16 of 29 shots in the half.
Gordon opened the second half with an ill-advised toss that went off the top of the backboard in an attempt to dunk that sent Wildcats coach Sean Miller sprawling back in his seat in disgust.
Gordon followed with the kind of move that has him projected as one of the top NBA draft picks when he leaves Tucson: a behind-the-back dribble through the lane that left his defender flatfooted and led to an easy layup.
Gordon added a layup on a nifty feed in transition from McConnell to put the Wildcats up 55-39.
Oregon State rallied behind Nelson against Arizona State on Thursday night before losing in overtime.
The Beavers had no comeback in them this time, and Nelson struggled all night. He scored 24 of his 26 points in the second half against Arizona State but had a hard time finding room to shoot against Arizona.
Hounded by Johnson and McConnell, who got plenty of help on screen switches, Nelson had four points on 2-of-8 shooting in the first half.
He continued to labor against Arizona’s pressure, going more than 10 minutes of the second half before getting off his first shot attempt. He missed all three of his 3-point tries in the game.