Looks like those lineup changes were a good idea.
The Arizona Wildcats jumped out to a 15-0 lead and never looked back, getting career highs from both a first-time starter and first-time non-starter in routing the Oregon State Beavers 98-64 on Thursday night in Corvallis, Ore.
Using an opening five with three new face from the game before for the first time in the Sean Miller era, the UA (10-3, 4-3 Pac-12) dominated from start to finish against an overmatched opponent that was playing its first game in 10 days.
Freshman Bennedict Mathurin made the most of his first career start, scoring Arizona’s first seven points en route to a career-high 31 points on 10-of 12 shooting. He hit 6 of 7 3-pointers and added eight rebounds after taking Dalen Terry’s spot.
But just as impressive—and maybe more critical to the rest of the season—was the play of Jordan Brown, who came off the bench for the first time in a UA uniform. The redshirt sophomore responded with a career-best 25, 15 of which came in 10 first-half minutes, making 10 of 12 shots.
Arizona’s other first-time starter, senior Terrell Brown Jr., had six points and five assists in place of the injured Jemarl Baker Jr. as he and James Akinjo combined for 14 points and 14 assists with only one turnover.
Freshman Azuolas Tubelis added 15 as Arizona shot 57.4 percent, its best rate in a Pac-12 game since shooting 57.6 percent in an overtime loss at Oregon in February 2018.
The retooled rotation also showed much more focus on the defensive end, though some of that had to do with the foe. OSU (5-5, 1-3) had been on pause since last playing on Jan. 4 because of COVID-19 issues, and it showed, as the Beavers missed their first 10 shots while going scoreless for the first eight-plus minutes and didn’t reach double digits until the 6:08 mark of the first half.
Christian Koloko, back in the starting lineup for the first time since Dec. 19, had 10 rebounds and three blocks to go with six points. Arizona held OSU to 41 percent shooting and just 5 of 22 on 3-pointers.
The UA led 47-21 at the half but didn’t let up. A 9-0 run gave the Wildcats a 61-26 edge, with Mathurin draining a 3-pointer five seconds after getting a chasedown block of OSU’s Zach Reichle in transition.
Holy crap this sequence by Bennedict Mathurin pic.twitter.com/yjOshBb3KP— Ryan Kelapire (@RKelapire) January 15, 2021
The Wildcats still ended up having one of their familiar scoring droughts, going more than five and a half minutes without a field goal to let OSU get within 68-47 with 9:12 left. But Jordan Brown’s 3-point play gave him a career high in scoring.
Mathurin bested his previous high of 24, which came in Arizona’s last road game at Washington State, by scoring 11 in a row for the Wildcats over an 87-second stretch that included three triples. He had 22 points in the second half.
The UA’s next schedule game is next Thursday at ASU, though Miller indicated earlier this week the Wildcats could add a nonconference home game before then to fill the gap left by Saturday’s visit to Oregon getting postponed due to the Ducks’ COVID issues.