Arizona men's basketball gets ready for one of their biggest homestands of the year
It feels like deja vu for Arizona men’s basketball as they are pretty much in the same place as they were two weeks ago. Coming off a road sweep, Arizona welcomes in the Oregon schools this weekend for a big two games.
The last time the Wildcats played at home they swept Washington and Washington State and it looked like they were finally playing up to their full potential. Arizona then dominated USC for 30 minutes but fell apart in the last 10 minutes of the game, but they had a large enough lead to win.
Then everyone went cold against UCLA, and McKale Center saw the worst shooting performance from a home team since it opened in 1973.
But here we are again as Arizona is coming off another road sweep and now facing two teams that the Wildcats have lost to earlier this year in Tucson. Oregon State comes to McKale on Thursday at 6:00 p.m. and Oregon comes on Saturday at 7:00 p.m.
This game will set the tone for the weekend as the Wildcats will be looking for revenge against a team that gave them their worst loss, by point differential, all year. Although it’s hard not to think about revenge, head coach Sean Miller wants his team to treat this game no different than any other game.
“Somebody told me a long time ago revenge kills you," Miller said. “So you start thinking in those terms and it's not healthy in any way shape or form. … We want to play good basketball. We want to be the best team that we can be.”
The Beavers are led by Tres Tinkle and Ethan Thompson. Tinkle leads the team with 18.3 PPG and 7.1 RPG while Thompson averages the most assists for OSU. Last time these two teams met they were tied at halftime, and then the Beavers went off. They outscored Arizona 51-34 in the second half and were able to do whatever they wanted.
The Wildcats have been incredibly inconsistent throughout the year, but if there were a time for them to start playing to their full potential, this would be the weekend. Nico Mannion has been struggling over his last three games with only 22 combined points and only one made three.
Oregon is one of the four teams, along with Arizona, that are tied atop the Pac-12 with four losses. If Oregon wins, Arizona will basically not be able to get a one seed in the conference tournament or a regular-season championship. But as long as Arizona beats Oregon, then they’ll be tied depending on what happens between the Ducks and ASU.
Payton Pritchard is the name to know for Oregon. He is one of the best players not just in the conference, but in the entire country. Before the last time these two teams met, there was a lot of talk about Mannion’s defense against Pritchard, and for the most part Mannion held his own. Pritchard averages 19.5 PPG and Mannion was able to hold him to 18 in their first contest.
When they played in January, Arizona was in charge most of the game and had a six-point lead with 1:47 left, but the Ducks came back and tied it up with 30 seconds left. Mannion passed the ball off to Zeke Nnaji, who had a free throw line jumper that was tipped (maybe fouled) by Pritchard.
Despite the loss, it was a very impressive game from a then-young Arizona team who was playing their first true road game. This time around, the Wildcat freshman have more experience and know what to expect.
Arizona tips-off against Oregon St. tonight at 6 p.m. on the Pac-12 Network (with Richard Jefferson calling the game).
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