Arizona looks to regroup against Oregon State
After a dominating start to the season, Arizona dropped from the ranks of the unbeaten its last time out. And while the Wildcats would appear to have a good chance to regroup with a matchup against Oregon State, taking the Beavers lightly could prove costly.
Fourth-ranked Arizona will try for a fifth consecutive win Saturday night over Oregon State, which hopes to avoid opening 0-3 in Pac-12 play for the first time in five seasons.
UA (14-1, 2-1) outscored opponents by an average of 15.8 points in opening 14-0, solidifying itself as one of the country's top teams. The Wildcats struggled for much of Thursday's game, though, and saw their bid for an undefeated season came to an end with a 70-66 loss at Oregon.
"We obviously want to win every game, but we know it's not a perfect world," guard Nick Johnson said. "It definitely hurts, because we know we let one slip away with our defense and our execution and stuff like that."
Leading scorer Mark Lyons had 21 points for his second 20-point effort in three games, but Arizona couldn't contain the Ducks from outside. Oregon shot 63.6 percent (7 for 11) from 3-point range, the highest mark allowed by the Wildcats this season.
While Arizona held teams to 35.1 percent from beyond the arc over its first 12 games, opponents have gone 24 for 48 against the Wildcats over their last three.
"Our defense has really slipped," said coach Sean Miller, whose team shot 43.9 percent Thursday. "From an offensive perspective -- 14 turnovers -- and there are times maybe that we didn't look as good, but we've won a lot of games this year with a similar offensive performance - or maybe even worse. It's just it has to be accompanied by hard play and defense."
Arizona, which concludes a stretch of three straight road games next Saturday at Arizona State, will first try to clamp down against the Beavers (10-5, 0-2). Oregon State shot just 38.7 percent in two matchups in last season's series - one of which went to overtime.
Despite losing 12 of the last 15 meetings, the Beavers have posted back-to-back home victories over Arizona.
While Oregon State won its first six games at Gill Coliseum, it hasn't experienced much of a home-court advantage of late. The Beavers have gone on to lose three of four on their own court, most recently falling 79-66 to Oregon on Sunday and 72-62 to Arizona State on Thursday.
Oregon State hasn't dropped its first three league games since going 0-18 in 2007-08.
The Sun Devils held a 49-35 edge on the glass against the Beavers, who played without leading rebounder Eric Moreland and freshman Victor Robbins after both were suspended for violating team rules. Moreland, second in the conference with 11.1 boards per game, and Robbins aren't expected to play against Arizona.
Junior Roberto Nelson, who averages a team-high 15.5 points, is trying to bounce back after finishing with eight points on 2-of-7 shooting Thursday.
While the Beavers don't carry much momentum into Saturday's showdown, coach Craig Robinson knows beating the Wildcats would be huge for his team.
"It's our job to keep these guys' heads up and confident," he said. "With a front-loaded conference schedule, those are great opportunities. It's still very early in the conference season."
Oregon State has dropped 32 of its last 33 games against ranked opponents by an average of 16.3 points. The Beavers, though, managed to stay close before falling 84-78 at then-No. 10 Kansas on Nov. 30 in their only game against a Top-25 foe this season.