Arizona was surprisingly obliterated by Oregon State last time out, falling to the Beavers in Corvallis by a score of 82-65.
The rematch is set 6 p.m. MST on the Pac-12 Network. Here are some things to watch for.
Handling success well
Arizona has not had a winning streak longer than three games since it opened the season 9-0, nor has it had a losing streak longer than two games.
In other words, the Wildcats have done a good job bouncing back from losses, but a poor job building on wins. That’s why this week is less about getting revenge on the Oregon schools and more about avoiding a letdown after sweeping the Bay Area schools.
No matter what, though, the end goal is the same: keep this winning streak going.
“Somebody told me a long time ago, revenge kills you,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said. “You start thinking in those terms, it’s not healthy in any way, shape or form. For us, what we want to do is, especially as the calendar turns to late February, we just want to play well. We want to play good basketball, we want to be the best team that we can be.”
Those poor McKale Center rims
We know about Arizona’s 3-point shooting struggles by now—we wrote about them earlier in the week if you want to catch up on them—and Oregon State is having similar difficulties.
The Beavers are actually the worst 3-point shooting team in the Pac-12, making just 31.3 percent of their triples this season.
Get this: they do not have a single player shooting over 35.3 percent from distance. That mark belongs to Tres Tinkle, the do-everything coach’s son.
Tinkle is the fifth-best player in the Pac-12, per KenPom. He leads OSU in scoring (18.3 PPG), rebounding (7.1 RPG) and steals (2.5 SPG).
The Beavers managed to go 8 for 18 from 3 against the Wildcats last time, but Arizona’s defense has improved quite a bit since then. It was ranked 44th in the country after the loss to Oregon State in January. Now it ranks 25th.
“I think we’re completely different,” Max Hazzard agreed. “I think we’re better on defense and I think our offense is better. Obviously we’ve got a lot of new guys, but as the season goes on we become that much more of a team and we figure each other out and where guys like the ball. So I think we’re much better now than whenever those games were.”
The Gettings factor
Part of the reason OSU had so much success from 3 is Arizona could not prevent drive-and-kick opportunities. As Miller said after that loss...
“We just couldn’t keep them in front.”
One thing Miller noted this week is that Arizona did not have an answer when the Beavers went small and put Tinkle at the 4.
Miller thinks Stone Gettings, who only played 15 minutes that night and wasn’t in the starting lineup, can present a better matchup in the rematch than the more traditional Chase Jeter-Zeke Nnaji frontcourt.
“He’s more mobile,” Miller said.
Miller also thinks Gettings will help Arizona against Oregon State’s 1-3-1 zone. His shooting, passing and offensive rebounding make him a valuable weapon.
“We’re more comfortable against the zone right now,” Miller said. “We’ve played well against a variety zone defenses this year, and I think Stone Gettings is a different player in a different role right now than the last time that we played Oregon State.”
Finding that focus
Arizona has played a bunch of slow-paced teams the last few weeks. First it was UCLA, then it was Cal and now it’s Oregon State, which ranks 288th (of 353) in tempo.
Generally, Arizona has struggled in such games, going 1-3 in its four slowest-paced games. The Beavers deliberateness wore the Wildcats down last time, shooting 65 percent in the second half and outscoring UA 51-34 in the period.
The longer you defend, the more concentration and patience is required. Arizona lacked it last time.
“They run a set play almost every time down,” Miller said in January. “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 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.”
Not the season of giving
Oregon State and Arizona are No. 1 and No. 2 respectively in the Pac-12 when it comes to limiting turnovers.The Beavers only average 11 per game; the Wildcats average 11.4.
However, in conference play, Arizona’s turnover percentage is a bit lower.
Oregon State is also 11th in the conference in forcing turnovers, so Arizona should not have trouble taking care of the ball Thursday. Even in that clunker in Corvallis, the Wildcats only coughed the ball up 10 times.
Obviously winning the turnover battle will be critical for the Wildcats to play at the fast pace they prefer.
The other games Arizona fans should be monitoring Thursday are Oregon vs. Arizona State and Colorado vs. USC.
If the Sun Devils, Trojans, and Wildcats win, Arizona will claim sole possession of first place heading into Saturday’s heavyweight battle vs. Oregon.
Here is another crazy scenario: USC beats Colorado, ASU beats Oregon, and Oregon State beats Arizona. That’d mean there would be five teams with five conference losses atop the Pac-12 standings.