A looser group of Arizona Wildcats returned Saturday night against the Oregon State Beavers.
The result in Corvallis, Ore., was enough to pull out a 80-70 victory, and the effort shored up a the Wildcats' usual troubles and the win against a Beavers team that struggled a bit on both ends of the floor.
Solomon Hill continued his four-game team with 16 points and 5-of-8 three-point shooting, helping the Wildcats to an efficient 10-of-25 from deep for the night. Nick Johnson also returned to his old self, filling up the box score with 14 points, six rebounds and five assists.
Arizona methodically went about its business throughout, and had it not been for turnover problems leading to 12 points off turnovers by the Beavers in the first half, the Wildcats would have had more than a 43-35 lead.
The energy level in the second half bettered the decent play in the first.
Looking more free and playing with more of a sense of urgency, the Wildcats held the Beavs to just below 40 percent shooting for the game, likely making head coach Sean Miller feel better about what he called the biggest issue after the Oregon loss. Outside of double-digit scoring by OSU point guard Ahmad Starks in the first half -- a problem that was quelled by switching Nick Johnson onto him and moving Lyons off the water bug of a point guard -- the Wildcats controlled the game despite never throwing any huge offense bursts into the equation.
Starks led OSU with 18 points.
Grant Jerrett gave the Wildcats the biggest boost, recording six blocks off the bench to go with eight points. The freshman and Kevin Parrom added two three-pointers each to help Arizona reach the 80-point plateau with balance.
The turnover issues were also better off against the Beavers.
Arizona had a misleading 10 turnovers in the first half; it was misleading because a number were from players stepping out of bounds (there were at least three of those). Center Kaleb Tarczewski recorded five give-aways for the game, a number of which were because of being stripped by the ball -- that's not an issue of the team's offense.
Meanwhile, Mark Lyons played smarter than he has in the past few games. He posted 16 points, and though he struggled to put the ball in the hole at that, there weren't any blatantly poor decisions on the night. He had five assists and just two turnovers.
Brandon Ashley (12 points and seven rebounds) also stepped up after the three freshmen big men combined for seven points and 11 rebounds on Thursday. As a whole, the trio scored 25 and grabbed 17 rebounds to go with six blocks and three steals.
The Wildcats shot 47.5 percent for the game and left seven points on the board at the foul stripe. They only had two points off turnovers scored against them by the Beavers in the second half as they opened up a double-digit lead. And Miller's team didn't lose its aggressive edge despite what usually would appear to be extreme foul trouble. Arizona had Parrom, Johnson and Ashley with four fouls by the end of the game and Jerrett fouled out following his best night of challenging shots at the rim.
A split at the Oregon school's isn't all that shabby.
Finding some sense of urgency with a rivalry on the horizon is a good sign for the Wildcats.