Turnaround time short for No. 4 Arizona basketball
Wildcats won't get long to dwell on loss to Oregon
Arizona’s Solomin Hill goes in for a layup during Oregon’s 70-66 victory over the previously unbeaten Arizona Wildcats Janurary 10, 2012 at Matthew Knight Arena. Hill had 16 points and 6 rebounds in a losing effort. (Alex McDougall/Emerald)
The No. 4 Arizona men’s basketball team suffered its first defeat of the season Thursday, but it doesn’t get long to dwell on the defeat. The Wildcats travels to Corvallis, Ore., to take on Oregon State Saturday at 8 p.m. to complete the two-game trip.
The Beavers don’t boast the same talent as the Oregon team that took down Arizona 70-66, but with three straight lackluster performances, the previously unbeaten Wildcats need a win in Gill Coliseum to avoid an Oregon sweep.
“Road games aren’t easy to win, regardless of where you go,” head coach Sean Miller said in Tuesday’s press conference. “That’s what’s hard about [being] inside the Pac-12 regular season conference race, this season in particular.”
On paper, Oregon State offers a unique challenge of its own. The Beavers are 37th in scoring (77.1 points per game), 39th in field goal percentage (46.9 percent) and 31st in rebounds per game (39.9). But there is something that puts those numbers into perspective — strength of schedule.
Oregon State has the 294th ranked strength of schedule and has yet to beat a Top-150 RPI team, according to CBSSports.com. They’ll get another shot at it against the Wildcats, who hold the third best RPI.
One thing that’s been an Achilles’ Heel as of late for Arizona is three-point defense, and that could become an issue against the Beavers.
During Pac-12 play, the UA’s opponents have hit 24 of their 48 three-point attempts and Oregon State ranks as the 18th most accurate team in the nation from deep.
Junior guards Roberto Nelson and Ahmad Starks are particularly lethal, both shooting over 45 percent from beyond the arc and averaging more than 13 points a game. Another junior, Devon Collier, gives the Beavers an inside presence with 14.5 points per game and 6.1 rebounds.
Senior guard Mark Lyons said during the press conference that both Oregon schools were great teams, especially on their home courts.
“We just got to go out there and try to keep the crowd out of it, stay aggressive, (and) have better effort on defense mostly,” Lyons said.
An improved defensive effort was nowhere to be found Thursday night. The Wildcats allowed Oregon to shoot 48 percent from the floor and were unable to out rebound the Ducks, tying them with 22 defensive boards apiece.
For Miller, one of the hardest things to do is win a conference championship because of the challenges that road series present.
Only three games into the Pac-12 season, the Wildcats’ hopes of championship are no way in jeopardy. They still hold the best overall record in the conference at 14-1 and won their first two Pac-12 games, even if they weren’t in convincing fashion.
Now, though, Arizona has to do something it hasn’t all year — play a game off of a loss.