The Arizona Wildcats blew out the Oregon State Beavers 89-63 on Friday to improve to 19-7 overall and 9-4 in the Pac-12.
Our recap can be found here, Sean Miller’s postgame comments can be read here, and below are some additional takeaways.
This is why Josh Green is a first-round talent
If you are wondering why Green is so highly regarded by draftniks even though his numbers haven’t jumped off the page this season, this game was a prime example.
Green did everything, stuffing the stat sheet with 18 points, six assists, four steals, four rebounds, and a block while shooting 7 for 11 from the field, 2 for 3 from 3, and 2 for 2 from the free-throw line.
“He was all over the place,” Nico Mannion said.
Green’s defensive prowess is nothing new—and he was as active as ever Thursday—but this was his most well-rounded offensive game of the season, particularly as a scorer. The freshman hit floaters and jumpers in the halfcourt, and threw down a pair of thunderous dunks in transition.
Oregon State sure did its best to set Green up, committing a season-high 21 turnovers, fueling Arizona’s transition game, where Green is a nightmare to defend.
“Josh can do it a lot of ways, he can do it with the ball, he can do it running wide,” Miller said. “He’s had some of our best passes in transition this year. He’s not always the recipient. Sometimes he’s the giver. He’s the player that makes the clever play. No doubt when the game gets going fast Josh is really at ease. That’s when he’s at his best. He really pushed the ball early in the game tonight, and that’s a big reason he had such a big game.”
Is Christian Koloko the No. 3 big now?
Christian Koloko was the first big off the bench against the Beavers, and was ultra-productive in the 10 minutes he was on the court, logging five points, three blocks and a steal while posting a +12 plus-minus.
Not all that different from how he fared against Stanford last week when he had two points, three steals and a block in 10 minutes.
Miller said he wants to “inch up” the 7-footer’s minutes. We’ve heard that a few times before, but maybe this time it’s for real.
“Christian just keeps getting better,” Miller said. “Boy, I’ll tell you, he comes in and he’s just different. The same shots that (teams) seem to be able to get around the basket and go in sometimes, they’re eliminated with him. The other thing is, Christian, because we coach him every day in practice, Christian has good hands. As he gets stronger he’s going to be fine in the post. In my mind if we’re playing better as a team he’s a big part of the solution.”
Nico Mannion doesn’t like the term “slump” and is doing his best to break out of it
Mannion seemed a little irritated by the idea that he was in a shooting slump.
“As you guys say,” he said.
Either way, there is no glossing over the fact he has really been struggling with his jumper. Thursday yielded hope that he is bound to get back on track, going 2 for 5 from 3 against Oregon State.
Mannion, who was 1 for his previous 17, said “obviously it’s good to see the ball go in” but was adamant that his confidence never wavered in the first place.
“I think the main thing for me was just sticking with my process, getting up my extra shots, doing my extra work,” he said. “I kinda felt my process would win out over a shooting slump as you guys say. Just taking the right shots, being confident in myself, I know my guys are confident in me, and that’s all that really matters.”
Very interesting shot chart for Nico Mannion...— Zach Milner (@ZachMilner13) February 21, 2020
From beyond the arc, he's shooting 6/31 on one side of the floor but 15/39 from 3 on the other
His efficiency on long twos is the exact opposite when looking at the sides of the court pic.twitter.com/DARHnOimAP
Arizona wins big when Hazzard scores in double figures
Max Hazzard scored 15 points against Oregon State, going 3 for 6 from 3. It was his fourth time scoring in double figures with the Wildcats, and they are 4-0 in such games, with an average margin of victory of 25 points.
Sure, those games were not against the toughest opponents—Illinois, Long Beach State, Utah and Oregon State—but there is no doubt that he, and Dylan Smith, are the team’s X-factors on offense.
Unfortunately, these kind of outings have been few and far in between for Hazzard. He had scored six total points in Arizona’s previous five games before Thursday’s outburst.
“It just brings a different aspect to our team, just because he’s a real sniper and a great decision-maker,” Mannion said. “You see he drives and kicks and makes the right plays, and he’s starting to defend really well.”
Tres Tinkle is high on the McKale Center villain list
Sean Miller did not think Tres Tinkle’s elbow to Jemarl Baker Jr.’s face was dirty and was actually disappointed his last game in McKale Center ended in ejection.
Arizona fans clearly feel differently, though, based on how they reacted to him being sent off, waving and sneering at Tinkle as he trudged toward the locker room.
Who can blame them?
After all, the last time Tinkle played in McKale he undercut Chase Jeter as he soared for a rebound, causing the UA big man to land violently on his back and suffer an injury that he never really seemed to recover from.
UA players didn’t exactly let Tinkle’s elbow go unpunished, responding with a 9-0 run to put the game out of reach.
“I think with something like that, Jemarl gets hit and we’re all frustrated about it just because everyone is so close with each other,” Mannion said. “We see that happen and it’s just kind of like, ‘Alright, let’s really play.’”
Saturday will be “March Madness”
Winners of three straight, things are going well for the Wildcats, which means trouble is afoot.
“Confidence comes with momentum. If you make shots, if you win, I think it feels good,” Miller said.
“We haven’t always handled when things have gone well. We’ve talked a lot about that. It doesn’t mean it’s going to change.”
Arizona has not strung more than three wins together since it started the season 9-0. They swept Utah and Colorado, then blew a 22-point lead at ASU. They swept the Washington schools on the road, then had two listless performances against USC and UCLA.
The Wildcats have been maddeningly inconsistent, but a win over Oregon on Saturday would go a long way toward turning a new leaf and asserting themselves as the best team in the Pac-12—or, at the very least, narrow the conference title race.
Oregon lost to ASU on Thursday, putting them a game behind the Sun Devils, Arizona and Colorado for first place in the loss column. The Wildcats can double that deficit Saturday, and maybe even claim sole possession of first if Colorado and ASU slip up.
“The game on Saturday is like March Madness,” Miller said.
That is not exactly the analogy you want to hear when Miller also had this to say: “[Oregon] always seem to hit their stride in late February, early March. They did last year, they had a great conference tournament, really got themselves in the NCAA Tournament through through that way. But we can’t control them, we have to be ready, we have to take care of the ball.
“Oregon, when they turn you over and get key shot blocks, they really benefit tremendously. We’re going to have to be able to guard some really talented players off the dribble. We’re getting better in that area but we’ll be challenged again on Saturday.”
You can buy tickets to the Arizona-Oregon game on StubHub HERE.