The No. 24 Arizona Wildcats kept pace atop the Pac-12 standings Thursday night at the McKale Center, grabbing a pivotal 89-63 win over Oregon State.
The Wildcats’ blowout victory against the Beavers was the team’s third straight W and avenged one of their worst losses of the season when OSU defeated Arizona 82-65 in Corvallis on Jan. 12.
The Cats are now 19-7 overall and 9-4 heading into a huge matchup with No. 14 Oregon on Saturday night.
Arizona only outshot Oregon State by two percent on Thursday — 44% (28-64) to 42% (22-53) — so the biggest difference between the two teams was the turnover margin.
The Wildcats forced 21 TOs while committing just eight of their own. They outscored the Beavers 26-9 in the points-off-turnover category.
“We continue to do a great job of playing with single-digit (turnovers) and that’s not easy to do,” Miller said.
“We forced 21 and uncharacteristically Oregon State turned the ball over more than they normally do. Twenty-one turnovers for them, eight for us is a big, big difference in the game.”
Green enjoyed one of his best games of the season at home against the Beavers.
The freshman finished with 18 points to lead Arizona, racking up a career high 6 assists and 4 rebounds in the process. He was 7-11 from the field and 2-3 from three.
“Josh Green was fantastic tonight. It’s great to see him contribute in so many different ways,” Miller said afterwards.
“He got off to a great start and really played well throughout the game.”
The Aussie came out of the gates playing with a super high motor, disrupting Oregon State on defense and getting out on the fast break to throw down two tone-setting dunks early on.
Arizona running Oregon State out of the gym early. Josh Green's steal and slam has the Wildcats up 10-2. pic.twitter.com/6qN3G8Xp1S— Ryan Kelapire (@RKelapire) February 21, 2020
Josh Green transition dunk x2. Oregon State has no answer. pic.twitter.com/ZNbcIcwM6I— Ryan Kelapire (@RKelapire) February 21, 2020
His aggressive play on both ends powered the Wildcats to their early lead and they never let up.
If Green can play like that the rest of this season, Arizona will benefit in a major, major way.
Everyone knew that Oregon State would try to slow the game down against the Wildcats, but unlike in their first meeting of the season, Arizona didn’t let that happen Thursday night.
The Cats looked to push the ball right from the opening tip and ultimately outscored the Beavers on the fast break 22-10.
They never looked unsettled on offense — an impressive feat considering this UA team’s struggles against slower tempo teams (especially ones who play zone like Oregon State).
In the end, Green (18 points), Nico Mannion (16), Max Hazzard (15) and Zeke Nnaji (13) all finished in double figures, while the team also enjoyed it’s best three-point shooting game in weeks, shooting 10-21 (48%) from beyond the arc.
Not letting the Beavers dictate the pace of the game made it all possible.
Not much went wrong for Arizona on Thursday night, but one thing that irked Miller was how his team failed to stay close to their individual defensive assignments on multiple occassions.
There were a number of breakdowns on the defensive end that OSU took advantage of, particularly Jarod Lucas who knocked down numerous open looks after losing his defender.
Miller was visibly upset several times and even slammed a clipboard on the ground during a timeout at one point.
“We didn’t know who we were guarding,” the UA head coach said afterwards of why he was so perturbed.
“Those are November mistakes, you don’t make that mistake in February. That’s the play that ends up beating you. It’s not the last play in the game, it’s every play. There’s no excuse for five players to not know who we have. Two of Lucas’ 3-point shots came because we didn’t identify the players that we were guarding. It’s not one player’s fault, it’s everybody’s fault.
“It’s the little things at this time of year that mean more because every team is kind of the best version of themselves. You have a lot of players and teams that are playing for a lot, playing their heart out. And it’s those mistakes that we make, that a lot of times come back to haunt us. If we make that mistake on Saturday, and we give (Oregon) six points because we don’t know where to guarding, I mean, it’s gonna be hard to beat Oregon. I’m going to hold the bar incredibly high in those areas, because that’s things that we can control. That’s being a well-prepared team that’s not going to beat themselves. That’s really what that was about.”
Tres Tinkle’s rough night
If Oregon State was going to get it’s second win at McKale in 35 years, they absolutely needed their best player, senior Tres Tinkle, to play well.
He didn’t, huffing and puffing his way to 11 points (he was 3-11 from the field and 1-3 from 3) before being ejected for elbowing Jemarl Baker Jr. in the face on a drive to the basket in the second half.
Arizona limited the Beavers’ talisman to just 3 rebounds and 1 assist and he had nowhere near the same kind of impact he did when Oregon State beat the Wildcats by 17 back in January.
Miller said after the game that he felt that Tinkle’s elbow that got him ejected wasn’t a dirty play and that he shouldn’t have been thrown out.
Either way, Tinkle’s team got blown out in the second half because of it.
Smith was key to Arizona’s sweep of the Bay Area schools last week — averaging 12.5 ppg — but wasn’t as effective against Oregon State on Thursday.
The mercurial senior scored just five points, going 1-7 from the field and 1-4 from three on the night.
He didn’t make any plays that really cost the Wildcats, but the fact that he fouled out in 15 minutes of action and made just one shot is certainly enough to merit a spot here in the down section.
“Looking back at our Cal and Stanford trip, Dylan Smith was really, really good. Not just on offense, but on defense,” Miller said. “He played like a senior. He made big plays, he was consistent. He got in foul trouble tonight and wasn’t able to have the same type of game. Dylan on Saturday (against Oregon) is a really big deal. He has to play well.”