Oregon St.-Arizona Preview
After being outplayed in a loss at Oregon State earlier this month, Arizona is confident that won’t be the case in the rematch.
The sixth-ranked Wildcats can avenge their lone Pac-12 defeat by continuing their home dominance over the Beavers on Friday night.
Arizona coach Sean Miller and his players had no trouble admitting they lacked an overall aggressiveness during a 58-56 loss at Oregon State on Jan. 11.
The Wildcats (19-2, 7-1) shot 37.8 percent and went 4 of 17 from 3-point range against one of the nation’s top defensive teams, whose 51.3 percent shooting effort remains the best by an Arizona opponent this season.
"Against Oregon State it’s about turnovers, and being able to generate great shots," Miller said. "And defensively, it’s being able to guard the ball, which we didn’t do a very good job of doing last time."
Despite Arizona’s struggles, the outcome was in doubt until Langston Morris-Walker made a go-ahead lay-in with 26 seconds left and T.J. McConnell missed an off-balance shot with 1 second remaining.
"We just didn’t play Arizona basketball when we were over in Corvallis," said McConnell, who had 13 points, six rebounds and six assists. "We know we’re not going to let that happen again. We’ll be ready."
That certainly appears likely for the Wildcats, who since the loss have won five straight by an average of 19.2 points and have held four of those opponents below 44.0 percent shooting. Among the nation’s top shooting teams at 49.8 percent, Arizona was even better at 59.3 during Wednesday’s 90-56 home rout of Oregon.
"I do think we’ve responded well to the two losses we’ve had," Miller said. "We’ve learned a lot about ourselves."
The Beavers (14-6, 5-3), meanwhile, know they face a tougher challenge in Tucson, where Arizona has won 33 in a row overall and 30 of the last 31 meetings. They also haven’t beaten a ranked team on the road since Jan. 5, 1985, at then-No. 15 Washington.
Oregon State failed to build even more momentum when its three-game winning streak ended with Wednesday’s 73-55 loss at Arizona State.
"We know we have a monster, a big storm coming on Friday, but it’s going to tell us a little bit about ourselves, I think," said coach Wayne Tinkle, whose team is 2-4 on the road.
Oregon State entered Wednesday’s contest allowing 56.1 points per game – ranked ninth in the nation – and had allowed its previous six opponents to shoot a combined 35.1 percent before the Sun Devils connected at a 46.9 clip and hit nine 3-pointers to hang a season high for points allowed on the Beavers.
Freshman Gary Payton II scored 23 points and Malcolm Duvivier added 14 on a combined 17-of-30 shooting, but the rest of the Beavers went 8 of 21 from the field.
"We had too many guys who had off nights," Tinkle said. "But you can’t have off nights offensively and carry it to the defensive end."
Averaging a team-leading 13.2 points and among the Pac-12 leaders in field goal percentage (50.8) and rebounding (8.2), Payton has averaged 20.7 points and shot 54.2 percent in the last three contests. He scored just 10 against Arizona but had nine boards.
"He really is extraordinary in how he impacts winning in so many different ways," Arizona State coach Herb Sendek said about the son of nine-time NBA All-Star and former Beaver Gary Payton.
Fellow freshman and Arizona leading scorer Stanley Johnson (14.9 ppg) was held to seven points at Oregon State, then averaged 19.3 over the next four games before scoring 12 on Wednesday.