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Mikayla Pivec’s game-winner propels Oregon State past Arizona as Beavers stay unbeaten

Did she travel?

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: JAN 10 Women’s Oregon State at Arizona

The Arizona Wildcats have only lost two home games in the last 10 months and change. Mikayla Pivec and the Oregon State Beavers handed them both.

The senior guard made an off-balance shot in the lane with 1.4 seconds left to lead No. 3 Oregon State to a 63-61 win over No. 18 Arizona on Friday in McKale Center.

Pivec also nailed the game-winner in Tucson last March when OSU outlasted Arizona in double overtime. The Wildcats (13-2, 2-2 Pac-12) had reeled off 13 straight home wins since then.

“Can she graduate now?” joked Arizona coach Adia Barnes. “I don’t ever want to see her again.”

The Beavers improved to 15-0, one of two unbeaten teams in the country. Arizona was the first team to lose to them by single digits, and was oh-so-close to being the first to beat them.

Aari McDonald had a potential game-winning 3 blocked at the buzzer after she saw a 3 rim out on the previous possession. The UA point guard finished with 15 points on 6-of-21 shooting, an uncharacteristically cold night.

“Aari had a couple shots go in and out, shots she normally has,” Barnes said. “And they weren’t forced, they were open.”

Pivec’s game-winner shouldn’t have counted either, according to the totally unbiased Arizona fans in my Twitter mentions. She appeared to switch her pivot foot as she spun to score over Amari Carter. Barnes did not think it was a travel, but admitted she was too consumed by the play to focus on Pivec’s feet.

“She made a tough shot because it looked like she got bodied up, and she kind of stepped through,” Barnes said. “She’s a great player and she hits big shots. But I wasn’t mad about the last play. There were some things we could have done differently. We drew up the exact play they were gonna run, and they ran it. And her going downhill to her left, she’s hard to guard. She is the person we knew they’d give the ball to.”

Pivec was critical down the stretch, scoring eight of Oregon State’s final 10 points to finish with a game-high 17. Destiny Slocum added 13 points and six assists for the Beavers, going 3-for-3 from behind the arc. She buried a triple from the wing to give the Beavers an 11-point lead midway through the third quarter.

But no lead was safe in what was a rugged game of runs. Arizona scored 10 straight points to pull within 45-44 with 1:32 left in the third, holding the Beavers scoreless for almost four minutes. Only 21 fouls were called all game, as the officials let things get physical.

“We made an adjustment that was effective for the on-ball (screens),” Barnes said. “I don’t usually yell, but I did yell in that timeout (early in the second half). I screamed at the top of my lungs because we were supposed to do something two possessions in a row ... and we’re usually disciplined. So after that, we did it every time. And it worked. When we were icing on-ball (screens), I thought it was very effective.”

OSU ended its scoring drought in a big way when Kat Tudor was fouled as she swished a high-arcing 3. She made the ensuing free throw to give the Beavers a five-point advantage heading into the fourth quarter. Oregon State scored the first four points of the period to take a nine-point lead. The Wildcats quickly whittled it away, scoring six answered points.

“We can’t allow [those runs] against No. 3 in the country,” Barnes said. “But we’re right there. ... Years ago against a top program, we would have been killed. So we are right there. We played within one basket.”

And even had a late lead. Carter banked in a runner to give Arizona a 60-59 advantage with 3:26 left, before Pivec sank two free throws to put OSU back up by one with 2:59 to go.

Cate Reese, who had 15 points and 11 rebounds against a much bigger OSU frontcourt, split a pair of free throws to knot the game at 61-all with 1:40 to play. That was Arizona’s last point of the night. It missed seven of its last eight shots, shooting 41 percent for the game and just 4 for 16 from 3.

“They were some good looks, we just couldn’t convert,” said junior Sam Thomas, who had 11 points and hit a deep 3 to give Arizona a 26-22 lead midway through the second quarter.

Arizona forced 19 turnovers, getting a defensive boost from Dominique McBryde, who returned from a sprained ankle and played 16 minutes off the bench in her first action since Dec. 2.

The senior entered with 3:51 left in the first quarter, immediately rotating for a weak side block that resulted in layup for Thomas the other way. McBryde then collected a pass underneath from Helena Pueyo and laid it in to cut OSU’s lead to 16-13 in the first,

“It felt amazing,” said McBryde, who finished with four points and two blocks. “I missed being out there, I missed being with my teammates, missed the hype of it all. ... It would have been even better if we got the win, but that didn’t happen.”

Continuing Arizona’s season-long string of injuries, Pueyo exited early in the second quarter with an ankle sprain and missed the rest of the game, though Barnes expects her to play Sunday vs. No. 2 Oregon.

“It hurt us when Pueyo got hurt because against the zone she really stretches the defense,” Barnes said.

Before twisting her ankle, Pueyo drained a pull-up 3 from the top of the key before forcing a steal and assisting Reese in transition to trim OSU’s lead to 10-9 after the Beavers opened the game on a 7-0 run.

Carter drilled a long two at the buzzer to cut the deficit to 19-15 heading into the second, and Arizona carried that momentum into the period, using an 11-3 run to claim a 26-22 lead. Three different Wildcats buried a 3 during that stretch, the 5,694 in attendance cheering louder and louder for each one.

“They brought us back into the game,” Thomas said.

The Beavers weren’t phased. They closed the quarter on a 14-4 run to re-take a 36-30 lead at the break. Oregon State made seven 3s in the first half, with five players making at least one. They finished 9 for 20 from distance. Arizona owned a 32-22 edge in the paint, helping it overcome its shooting woes.

“They’re hard to guard because they spread you out and they have a good post player in the lane, so you gotta help on the weak side, and then you’re late to rotate out to the shooters,” Barnes said. “The mistakes that I don’t like are the fouls on the 3-point shot, the and-one. That’s why you lose the game. It’s not the last play.”

The Wildcats will host another top-five foe Sunday in No. 2 Oregon. The Ducks were stunned by ASU 72-66 in Tempe on Friday, just their second loss all season. Barnes expects them to play with anger Sunday.

“Right before the game I heard that (they lost),” she said, before unleashing some sarcasm. “I was like, ‘great, we get to play Oregon after a loss. That’s awesome.’ Welcome to the Pac-12.”

The Wildcats should have a little extra juice Sunday too. They now know they can go toe-to-toe with a powerhouse like Oregon State, which will likely be ranked No. 1 in the country on Monday if it can avoid slip-up at ASU.

“It was nice that were with them the whole game,” Thomas said. “Even when we were down nine or 10, we still found a way to fight back.”