Wildcats hold on for OT win over Oregon State
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) -- Arizona survived the disappearance of its leading scorer in the first half, a late-game scoring burst by an opposing guard in the closing seconds and what could have been an ugly melee in overtime.
Put it all together and this could be the Wildcats' biggest win of the season, one that could propel them toward a second straight Pac-12 title.
Getting a boost from senior guards Kyle Fogg and Brendon Lavender, Arizona outlasted Oregon State 81-73 in overtime Thursday night in a game that nearly erupted into a brawl.
"I would say this is our best game of the season with everything that happened," Arizona coach Sean Miller said.
There was a lot.
Arizona (12-5, 3-1 Pac-12) struggled offensively in the first half and leading scorer Jesse Perry missed all three of his shots while going scoreless. Even while hitting 12 of 17 shots and getting five 3-pointers from Lavender in the second half, the Wildcats nearly lost in regulation, escaping after Ahmad Starks' open 3-pointer rimmed out.
Then came overtime.
Riding momentum after a rebound slam by Nick Johnson, Arizona put a charge through the McKale Center crowd when Fogg scored on a hard drive and was fouled with 1:15 left.
While celebrating the basket with the fans, Fogg turned to Arizona's bench and howled, bumping into Oregon State's Jared Cunningham in the process.
Cunningham shoved Fogg, players from both teams started pushing and jawing, and Miller came out onto the court shoving his players back to the bench.
Once the officials reviewed video of the incident, Arizona's Kyryl Natyazhko and Oregon State's Joe Burton were ejected for leaving the bench. Fogg fouled out after being hit with a technical foul and Cunningham was gone after getting personal and technical fouls.
The Wildcats didn't flinch after the dust-up, pulling away by clamping down defensively for a win they hope will be a springboard for the rest of the season.
Fogg scored 23 points, Johnson added 19 and Lavender had 15 of his 18 points in the second half for Arizona, which hit 12 of its 22 3-pointers.
"It was emotional," said Lavender, 5 of 6 from 3-point range. "We wanted to win. We've been working hard and we were excited to win. It was a crazy game; they were really aggressive."
Like Arizona, Oregon State (11-6, 1-4) staggered through an ugly first half before finding the range in the second.
The Beavers made 14 of 22 shots in the second half and had a strong finish to regulation, thanks to Cunningham and Starks. Oregon State couldn't finish it off in overtime, though, missing all seven of its shots to lose for the fourth time in five games and fall to 1-29 at McKale Center since 1983.
Cunningham finished with 22 points and Starks scored 10 of his 14 in the final 3:16 of regulation.
"The shame of it is, you play that hard to get back in the game and you can't hold yourself together to finish it," Oregon coach Craig Robinson said. "It's disappointing."
Arizona had a solid run through a tough nonconference schedule and opened the Pac-12 by wrapping wins over rival Arizona State and Southern California around a loss to UCLA.
Oregon State picked up a win over Texas while going 10-2 in nonconference, but has struggled since the Pac-12 started, losing three of four. The latest was the toughest: 103-101 to Stanford in quadruple overtime Saturday in the longest game in school history.
The Beavers have at least been scoring, coming into the game tied for fourth in the nation with 84.4 points per game, sixth in assists at 18.1 and ninth at 49 percent shooting while tying the school record with three 100-point games this season.
The Wildcats have had a few high-scoring games of their own, too, so this had the potential to be a shootout.
Missing tough shots against tight defense and easy ones with no defense, Oregon State and Arizona combined to miss 17 of their first 23 attempts.
It didn't get a whole lot better, either.
The Beavers missed their first seven 3-point attempts, including an air ball by Starks on an open shot from the top of the arc, finishing the half 2 for 10 while shooting 31 percent.
The Wildcats were a whole percentage point better, making 9 of 28 shots and just 3 of 8 free throws.
The result was an ugly halftime score: Oregon State 28, Arizona 26.
"I was pretty disappointed that we had only scored 26 points by halftime," Miller said.
The second half was more like what everyone expected.
Oregon State had the jump early, hitting 6 of its first 10 shots to go up by five after Cunningham hit a pair of 3-pointers.
Arizona was even better, hitting 8 of 12 shots to start the half. Lavender was the catalyst, hitting a pair of 3-pointers to help the Wildcats trim their deficit, then two more to put them up 58-54 with 7 minutes left.
Lavender hit his fifth 3 to put Arizona up five, but Starks answered quickly with a long one and tied the game at 67-all on a hard drive with 2 minutes left.
Starks scored again with 28 seconds left and Fogg quickly answered to tie it. Starks had one final shot in regulation, getting an open 3-pointer, but the ball rimmed out to send the game to overtime.
"Everyone on the court was ready to fight back to stay in the lead, but unfortunately that couldn't happen tonight," Starks said.
Arizona wouldn't let them, pulling out a hard-fought -- almost literally -- win.