The Arizona Wildcats beat the Oregon State Beavers 82-71 on Saturday, despite losing starting center Chase Jeter to a back injury less than five minutes into the first half.
The Wildcats overcame it with a total team effort, as five Wildcats scored in double figures.
“Obviously we want Chase out there, but he didn’t come back in, so we were just trying to hold it down for him,” said forward Ryan Luther, who had 16 points and a season-high 11 rebounds.
Forced to play super small lineups that included Luther at center and Dylan Smith at the 4, Arizona shot 13 for 27 from 3 and still managed to outrebound the bigger Beavers, 41-29, leading to a 28-9 edge in second-chance points.
“We had 21 second shots playing without Chase. I think that’s all you need to know about the effort level we played with,” said UA coach Sean Miller. “We played an inspired two hours of basketball. We weren’t perfect, but there’s nobody that can say that we didn’t give everything that we had.”
Brandon Williams led the Wildcats with 20 points and five assists on 10 shots. Luther, Justin Coleman (14), Smith (13) and Brandon Randolph (10) also scored in double figures. Williams, Coleman and Smith drained three 3s. Luther and Alex Barcello each sank two.
Miller criticized Arizona’s ball movement and shot selection after Thursday’s loss to Oregon, but was pleased with the Wildcats’ offense Saturday. Oregon State started in a zone, looking to replicate the Ducks’ success, but moved to man-to-man after Arizona got hot from 3.
“With our team right now, we have to be able to dribble penetrate,” Miller said. “We have to be able to drive the ball. It doesn’t really matter what defense you play against us. We have to create driving opportunities so that we can get to the free throw line, we can create a better overall look from the 3-point line. Part of why tonight we were 13 for 27 is we were able to create some really good open 3-point shots. You might say 27 is too much, but that’s what the defense gave us, because very seldom did we ever just play catch around the perimeter or let that zone move us out.”
The Wildcats improved to 14-5 overall and 5-1 in the Pac-12. They play USC and UCLA on the road next weekend, the start of a three-game road swing that ends at ASU on Jan. 31.
“We watched a lot of film yesterday and our big emphasis was to drive the ball and create for others,” said Coleman, who matched Williams with five assists.
Jeter exited with 15:46 left in the first half after being undercut by OSU’s Tres Tinkle while jumping for a rebound, causing him to crash violently to the floor.
The 6-foot-10 junior, who missed half his sophomore season at Duke with a back injury, writhed on the court in pain and grimaced as he walked gingerly to the locker room where he would remain for the rest of the first half.
While the big man did not return to the game, he emerged from the locker room at the start of the second half in uniform, and lightly participated in warmups before returning to the bench for the rest of the night. Miller said afterward that Jeter suffered back spasms and hopes he can play Thursday at USC.
Luther, Smith, and to a lesser extent, Ira Lee, who battled foul trouble, stepped up in his place.
“I give (Luther) a hard time every day because he’s my roommate, and today he played big at the 4 spot, shot the ball really well, so he opened up a lot of drives for myself, Brandon Williams and Brandon Randolph,” Coleman said.
The Wildcats raced out to a 13-3 start thanks to 11 early points by Williams, had their lead trimmed to 22-21, then finished the period on a 16-6 run to take a 38-27 lead into the locker room.
Arizona maintained a comfortable cushion until Zach Reichle sank a 3 to bring the Beavers within four with 10:43 to play, capping a 10-2 run. Barcello answered with 3 on UA’s ensuing possession to extend UA’s lead to 58-51, but an Ethan Thompson triple later cut Arizona’s lead to 61-58 with 8:19 left.
Williams easily made his way to the rim for a layup, then Randolph stripped Tinkle and went the distance for a layup to make it 65-58.
Coleman and Williams put the game away by pouring in back-to-back 3s that stretched Arizona’s lead to 71-60 with 5:01 to play, sending McKale Center into a frenzy and forcing Oregon State to call timeout.
Miller opened his postgame press conference by thanking the UA faithful.
“They didn’t give up on us after losing a tough game on Thursday night,” he said. “And this year especially we have to play well to win and we didn’t. But part of the bounce back is to feel that you’re supported and that you have that magical feeling in McKale. Trust me, everybody feeds off it.”