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Arizona’s defense hits new low in loss to Oregon State

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The Wildcats allowed 1.3 points per possession in Corvallis

NCAA Basketball: Arizona at Oregon State Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Wildcats suffered their worst loss to the Oregon State Beavers in over 30 years Sunday, and it all stemmed from a listless defensive effort.

The Wildcats allowed a season-worst 1.3 points per possession, the Beavers shooting 54 percent from the field, 44 percent from 3 and, to add insult to injury, 91 percent from the free-throw line.

Arizona surrendered 51 points in the second half, the most it has allowed in a half this season. OSU made 65 percent of its shots in the period and, at one point, had a stretch in which it converted 14 of 15.

That coincided with Arizona going almost seven minutes without a made field goal, allowing the Beavers to cruise to an 82-65 win, even though the teams were tied 31-all at the half.

“They really just outclassed us, we didn’t have the ability to guard their offense,” a dejected Sean Miller said on Arizona’s postgame radio show. “Their offense is slow and deliberate, and they really run it through Tres Tinkle and Ethan Thompson. But we really struggled across the board. Alfred Hollins, we had a hard time guarding him, and they put 82 points on the board. ... They were the far superior team.”

The problem?

“We just had so many individuals that were unable to defend them,” Miller said. “And the game starts going and you get behind, we mixed in zone a couple of times, but at that point the game was over.”

Arizona’s lone bright spot in the loss, freshman Zeke Nnaji, had 21 points and nine rebounds, but Miller remarked that even he left a lot to be desired on defense. Josh Green, often regarded as UA’s best defender, posted a team-worst -28 plus/minus.

“We didn’t defend as well as we were capable of, and that just ended up hurting us,” Nnaji agreed. ”We just didn’t come out ready, and they were the more ready team. That’s why the result is how it is.”

Nnaji didn’t think the unpreparedness had anything to do with Arizona dwelling on Thursday’s heartbreaker at Oregon.

“I mean, we practiced hard [Friday and Saturday] preparing as best we could,” he said. “Oregon State was just the more prepared team tonight.”

The Beavers had five players score in double figures, getting plenty of uncontested looks inside and out. Oregon State entered with a top-30 offense but Sunday was its most prolific night of the season.

OSU’s second-half explosion caused Arizona’s defense to plummet from 30th in the country to 44th in KenPom’s efficiency ratings

“They run a set play almost every time down,” Miller said when asked what makes OSU difficult to defend. “The first 10 or 15 seconds is just really kind of motion, making sure that they are deliberate. And then they put the ball in one or two players’ hands, and no matter what action they ran in the second half, we weren’t able to match up. We just couldn’t keep them in front. We had breakdowns, and our concentration and our fight, especially in the second half, I thought the first four minutes of the game, we weren’t ready to play. And really they probably, maybe from about the 15-minute mark on, really had their way. I would say the game really got out of hand in the last 12 minutes. Their ability to really just score the ball and get great shots against our defense wore us out.”

To make matters worse, Arizona couldn’t secure rebounds when it did force misses. The Beavers tracked down seven offensive boards, a figure that is deceptively low because they only missed 23 shots.

Oregon State’s offensive rebounding percentage of 29.2 was the seventh-best mark against the Wildcats this season. It’s worth noting that OSU entered as one of the worst teams in the country in that department.

So it has gone for Arizona this season. Sunday marked the fourth time in the last five games that UA opponents have posted a 29.2 offensive rebounding percentage or better, the Arizona State game being the lone exception. (For reference, the national average is 28.3.)

Nnaji was the only player to grab more than three boards against the Beavers.

“And I think Josh Green got one or two of those in the last two or three minutes,” Miller said. “Rebounding is so hard for our team. I mean, I haven’t seen a stat sheet I don’t think ever where we played 10 players in the first half, and we only had three guys get a rebound. That’s mind-blowing.

“In the second half, we did a better job early on, but just our ability to get second shots when we miss, and being able to get defensive rebounds, it’s really hard for us. It’s been hard from day one and now that we’re in conference play, it’s a big, big deal.”

Arizona’s two best rebounders—Christian Koloko and Ira Lee—only played a combined 15 minutes. The matchup wasn’t right, Miller said.

“We’re trying to find ourselves,” he added. “One thing about Oregon State, they play Tres Tinkle at the 4, they’re small. So they have him and then they have three guards, so you have to either be able to take advantage of that inside and rebounding, and if you can’t then you try to match up with them. And I think in many ways tonight we were caught in between.”