Arizona expects another dogfight
Arizona will play Oregon on Saturday afternoon in a nationally televised (CBS) game, although it will be hard to top what happened at McKale Center on Thursday night.
On the other hand, coach Sean Miller said his team's 81-73 overtime victory against Oregon State might just be par for the course in the Pac-12 this season.
"For our team this year, we don't have a lot of margin for error, so we're always going to be in these hard-fought, close games," Miller said. "Being strong at the end of the game is an important quality to have. I have no doubt that against Oregon we're going to be in another dogfight.
"Hopefully, we have some confidence from this game, but that's pretty much the way our conference season is going to go."
Oregon (12-5, 3-2 Pac-12) has 6-foot-11 center Tony Woods but doesn't have the same kind of size across the front line that Oregon State does. That's a relief for undersized Arizona (12-5, 3-1), which has been beaten up by bigger players at times this season.
The Wildcats didn't get much inside vs. Oregon State -- making the same number of 3-point shots (12) as 2-point shots -- but that could change against the Ducks. For sure, Miller likes the way his team fought against the Beavers in what turned out to be a wild second half -- although he didn't necessarily love the fight that happened under the Arizona basket with 1:15 to go in overtime.
"I would classify tonight's game as our best win of the year," Miller said. "We had to be resilient, had to fight through some bad plays. ... We fought really hard."
It is a short turnaround to a Saturday day game, and guard Brendon Lavender said he and his teammates will quickly have to come down from the emotion of the Oregon State game.
"We have to put this game to bed," Lavender said. "Coach does a good job of setting us up for the next game."
TRENDING: Senior shooting guard Lavender really has one job -- come off the bench and shoot. He has been doing that with greater proficiency recently, including a 5-of-6 performance from behind the arc against Oregon State. All five of his 3-pointers came in the second half. "He made five 3s at key moments," coach Sean Miller said. "It seemed like they all came when our backs were against the wall." Lavender, who tied a career high with 18 points, has made a remarkable 23 of 38 3-pointers this season (60.5 percent). Miller said Lavender is deserving of more playing time, so look for that to occur Saturday against Oregon.
SATURDAY'S GAMES: vs. Oregon, 1:30 pm, CBS
KEY MATCHUPS: Arizona will try to contain a team that loves to run after misses and made baskets. Newcomer Devoe Joseph, a transfer from Minnesota who became eligible in mid-December, has been the Ducks' best player. He scored 30 points in the home victory over Stanford. The Wildcats may have the perimeter talent to deal with Joseph, a fifth-year senior guard, but matching up with the two-deep Ducks in the frontcourt will be more difficult. The Wildcats have won six in a row over the Ducks.
--Junior backup C Kyryl Natyazhko was ejected for coming off the bench during a skirmish with 1:15 to play in overtime against Oregon State. The penalty does not include an automatic suspension for the next game, although Pac-12 officials were going to review the tape of the incident Friday and possibly hand down further punishment. Oregon State PF Joe Burton also was ejected for leaving the bench.
--Senior SG Kyle Fogg scored a season-high 23 points against Oregon State, being more aggressive in looking for his shot than usual. He took 17 shots in 36 minutes. "He's got the experience to make big plays, and he did that tonight," coach Sean Miller said. Miller also noted, with satisfaction, that Fogg did not commit a turnover.