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Tuesday, September 2, 2014 | Last updated: 5:01pm

Beavers' defensive dam could hold Arizona Wildcats basketball



Oregon State infiltrates McKale Center on Sunday night with its best conference start in 15 years.

The UA should not take this game lightly, as just last week the Beavers swept the Los Angeles schools at home, which included a 71-67 win over UCLA on Sunday. Since starting conference play with a 0-2 record, Oregon State has worked its way back into the middle of the Pac-12.

Going into this week’s games, Oregon State held a 5-4 record in conference matches — the first time since 1999 that the Beavers finished above .500 in their first nine conference contests.

As of late, the Beavers have found a rhythm on offense. OSU is one of the hottest shooting teams in the Pac-12, and heading into its trip to Arizona is one of the best shooting teams in the conference.

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By Tyler Baker / Arizona Daily Wildcat
Fans start to take their seats before the Arizona vs. Oregon tip off at McKale Center on Thursday. Arizona won 67-65 against Oregon and plays Oregon State on Sunday at 5 p.m.

Oregon State’s Roberto Nelson, Eric Moreland and Hallice Cooke are some of the best conference shooters, and will be a offensive threat on Sunday.

Freshman guard Cooke hasn’t had the hype that Arizona freshmen Aaron Gordon and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson have had, but Cooke has quietly emerged as one of the best freshmen in the conference, despite not being a starter or receiving many minutes at the beginning of the season.

Collier and Moreland were suspended to start the season. Collier missed only the season opener while Moreland sat out the Beaver’s first 12 games for breaking team rules. The two big men’s presence was missed as the Beavers lost their first game to Coppin State and four of their first 12 games.

It took some time for Moreland to find a role in a rotation but since returning, he has clearly been one of the best players on the team. An established rebounder coming into his junior season, he has become one of the best in the country. Without Moreland, the Beavers would be well behind Arizona in the conference standings.

The Wildcats hold a 56-20 game advantage over Oregon State in the all-time series and have beaten the Beavers in each of the last five contests. Before that, however, Oregon State had taken three from Arizona ­— defeating the UA in both matches of 2010 and the first matchup of 2011.

Who to watch out for:
Roberto Nelson — senior guard — #55 — 6-foot-4; 198 pounds
Nelson is a sharp-shooting, scoring machine. The Santa Barbara, Calif., native recently became the sixth Beaver to score 1,500 points in his career.
Nelson scored 20-plus points in six straight contests this season and has scored double digits in more than 36 games this season.

Fun Fact:
Prior to their game Thursday at ASU, Nelson, Collier and center Angus Brandt had combined to average 48.6 points per game — the highest total by three teammates in the Pac-12.

Prediction:
No. 2 Arizona defeats Oregon State 77-71

–Follow Evan Rosenfeld @EvanRosenfeld17


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