Nobody on the Arizona Wildcats’ current roster has won at Gill Coliseum, but that’s likely to change Thursday night.
The 5th-ranked Wildcats (20-2, 9-0 Pac-12) are set to face the hapless Oregon State Beavers (4-18, 0-9 Pac-12) in Corvallis, Ore.
OSU, which has been without leading scorer Tres Tinkle for all but six games, is ranked as the 276th team in country, per KenPom, and its only four wins this season are against Prairie View A&M, UTSA, Southern Oregon, and Kent State.
The Beavers have had trouble beating anybody this season, and with a Saturday matchup with the No. 13 Oregon Ducks looming large for Arizona, it’s an opportune time for the Wildcats to overlook an opponent, something UA head coach Sean Miller says his team cannot do.
“For us, I think it’s a challenge to go in there and play well,” he said. “A lot of times that first game (of a road trip) sets the tone for the second and we’re not looking at the second game.
“Gill Coliseum has been a tough place for us. We haven’t had great success there. Winning on the road regardless of where you go is difficult, so we expect a tough game. It’s a conference game, it’s a home game for them, and when you’re a team like them, you’re looking for those highlights and certainly with us coming in undefeated it would be a big, big boost for them this season and for their future if they could beat us, so that’s part of being the hunted and that’s what we are right now.”
The Wildcats are coming off a home sweep of the Washington schools, but they did not look particularly impressive in the two games. Miller thought his team may have been less focused than usual because of the national attention they garnered after beating UCLA at Pauley Pavilion in Allonzo Trier’s debut the weekend before.
“We have to be able to back that up with great togetherness, being ready, executing, and understanding it’s not about who or where we’re playing, and that was point reviewing the Washington State and Washington games,” Miller said.
Arizona may make a starting lineup change this week, as it became clear Monday that Miller plans to move Trier back into the team’s starting lineup eventually, and likely sooner rather than later.
“We could, we’re looking at that right now,” Miller said. “In fairness to both Allonzo and our team, he’s playing starters minutes and there’s no reason to not let that happen. But somebody is going to have to get taken out of the lineup and that’s not easy to do when you’re 20-2.”
Trier played a team-high 33 minutes against Washington on Sunday, and Miller said it makes substitution patterns awkward when a player off the bench is playing that frequently.
For that reason, Miller thinks moving Trier into the starting five could help the Wildcats be more cohesive.
“I actually think it could make our team’s chemistry better, our overall play a little more efficient if we make that change,” he said. “That’s why we do it. We’re not going to do it to hurt anybody’s feelings or make Allonzo feel better, it would be the right thing for our team. And if it’s the right thing for our team, that’s what we have to do.”
Still, Miller said he wasn’t completely sure when a starting lineup change will be made.
Trier is averaging 13.7 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 4.7 assists per contest through three games. In all likelihood, he would take the place of Rawle Alkins or Kobi Simmons in the starting five.
Our staff discussed which player should be moved to the bench earlier in the week.
Also, don’t expect Parker Jackson-Cartwright to be re-inserted back into the Wildcats’ starting lineup as Miller said Monday that he likes the team’s current point guard situation with PJC complementing Kadeem Allen off the bench.
Oregon State has lost nine games in a row and, frankly, is one of the worst teams in college basketball.
The Beavers rank 303rd (of 351) in offensive efficiency, per KenPom, and 206th in defensive efficiency.
With Tinkle out with a wrist injury, the Beavers are missing a player who was averaging 20.2 points and 8.3 rebounds per game, and it has proved to be a massive blow.
With the sophomore out of the lineup, Oregon State is led by sophomore guard Stephen Thompson Jr., sophomore forward Drew Eubanks, and freshman Jaquori McLaughlin.
Thompson is averaging 17.7 points per game, while shooting 41 percent from the field and 33 percent from 3. He scored 56 points last week in Oregon State’s losses to Utah and Colorado.
“I know Stephen Thompson is having an outstanding sophomore season, he’s really picked it up lately,” Miller said. “I knew him as far back as high school. He’s a very talented player, he’s an all-conference type of player.”
Meanwhile, Eubanks — a strong 6-foot-10 forward — is averaging 14.9 points and 8.5 rebounds per games. He’s an efficient scorer, too, shooting 59 percent from the field.
Eubanks has had at least 20 points and 10 rebounds in two of OSU’s last three games.
“I looked at him last year as one of the best freshmen in our conference,” Miller said. “There were quite a few good ones. The maturity of playing a full season, going through a full offseason, coming back for a second year, players improve greatly and it looks like both he and Stephen Thompson as sophomores have made that jump.”
As a whole, Miller credits Oregon State for being a high-effort team.
“The thing about (head coach) Wayne Tinkle, and I know they’ve had an incredible amount of injuries and he’s working to build this team, his teams really play hard,” Miller said. “They’re physical. They certainly mix in some and I’m sure he’ll mix in zone against us, especially after watching us against Washington. It’s up to us to be more efficient and more at ease, more confident against the zone when they play it.”
That said, there’s a reason Oregon State is 4-18, and even though Arizona has struggled in Corvallis recently, it would be beyond shocking if the Wildcats were to drop this game.
“You can never look past a team,” Allen said. “Oregon is Saturday and we’ll get to them Saturday but from here until Thursday we’re focusing on Oregon State. I even have to remind myself sometimes that you can’t look to another game. You have to finish the first one.”
Arizona has won 14 games in a row, and its 9-0 start to conference play is tied for the third-best start in program history.
The Wildcats are 60-21 against Oregon State all-time, and have won nine of the last 10 matchups against the Beavers.
How to watch Thursday’s game
Time: 7 p.m. MST
Announcers: Roxy Bernstein & Corey Williams
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