UA hopes to find its aim against Oregon St.

UA hopes to find its aim against Oregon St.

Published Jan. 11, 2012 10:57 a.m. ET

TUCSON, Ariz. – At some point, Arizona will start hitting 3-pointers again. Arizona coach Sean Miller truly believes that.

The Wildcats can’t go 5 for 32 again in back-to-back games from the 3-point line -- can they?

Even the best teams suffer shooting slumps from time to time.

“I have no doubt with continued work, they’ll get right out of it and back to being the shooters that they were,’’ Miller said.

The Wildcats entered last week making 37.9 percent of its 3-point shots, ranked among the top three in the Pac-12, but they emerged with a 35.7 percent mark, eighth among 12 teams.

A saving grace, however, has been its defense against 3-point shots. UCLA and USC were a combined 2 for 24 from long range last week against the Wildcats, whose defense against 3-point shooting now stands at 26.0 percent, best in the conference and fifth in the nation.

So while Arizona (11-5 overall, 2-1 Pac-12) laments its offensive woes from last weekend’s trip to Los Angeles, Miller can at least feel good about its defense heading into what he calls a “huge week’’ against Oregon State and Oregon.

First up are the Beavers (11-5, 1-3).

"We are really defending the three well," Miller said. "As bad as we were (last week), the other teams were worse. That says a lot about our team and the signs of things to come with us continuing to develop into a very good defensive team."

It might have to be against a Beavers team that is by far the highest-scoring bunch in the Pac-12 (84.4 points per game). Arizona ranks only eighth at 69.2.

Arizona’s so-called “five guard’’ lineup, as Oregon State coach Craig Robinson described it, will once again be facing a bigger opponent in the Beavers. And Oregon State complements its size with a couple of athletically gifted players in Jared Cunningham and Ahmad Starks. Miller said Cunningham is one of his favorite players in the country because of his versatility.

“They have a lot of firepower,’’ Miller said. “They’re an explosive team.’’

As is Arizona, a team that loves to get out and run – if possible. Turnovers and ill-advised shots have been a pitfall, however.

"I don't know what they're going to do against us, but they're averaging in the 70s, so that's usually an indication they have a pretty good offense, whether they're doing it in transition, halfcourt or offensive rebounds,’’ Robinson said. “We have to score our 80 points a game and keep them to their 70 points a game. The big factor for us is playing defense in a game like this."

The Beavers had success against California last week with a 1-3-1 zone defense, and Miller said he’s preparing for some of that look.

Said Robinson: "I don't want to give away my game plan on Tuesday, but I think it's likely we'll play some zone. I don't know how much."

Whatever the defense, Arizona freshman Nick Johnson is looking to return to form after a difficult weekend. In Los Angeles, he went 3 for 15 from the floor and missed all six of his 3-point attempts.

Johnson said he’ll get through it, and Miller is not one to doubt him.

“Nick is a perfectionist,’’ Miller said. “He’s been rock solid for our team. Every freshman has his bumps in the road. He’ll handle it well. He’ll be fine. I’m confident in that.’’