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Arizona holds off Oregon State despite uneven offense

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Photo courtesy Arizona Athletics

Against a better opponent, the Arizona Wildcats might be taking a 3-game losing streak into the weekend. Thanks heavens for Oregon State.

The UA couldn’t make a 2-pointer to save its life, missed nine first-half free throws and turned it over 13 times yet still managed to pull out a 70-61 win over the Beavers on Thursday night at McKale Center.

It was the ninth straight home win over OSU for Arizona (14-6, 8-6 Pac-12) and 10th overall in the past 11 meetings. But this one was a lot harder than the 98-64 thumping the Wildcats put on the Beavers last month in Corvallis, mostly because of their own doing.

Arizona shot 40 percent but was 13 of 32 on 2s, the fewest made 2-pointers in a win since beating Texas A&M 67-64 in Phoenix in December 2017. The Wildcats hit 7 of 18 3-pointers, with James Akinjo and Bennedict Mathurin combining to go 5 of 10 from deep as each had 14 points, and they got to the line 34 times to just 10 foul shots for OSU (10-9, 6-7).

One place where the UA did not disappoint was on the boards, outrebounding the Beavers 47-34 and turning 15 offensive boards into 17 points.

Azuolas Tubelis had 10 boards, one of five Arizona players with at least seven, while OSU had no player with more than six rebounds. The Wildcats remain the only team in Division I to not be outrebounded in a game.

Arizona’s defense was better than it was when getting swept at Utah and Colorado, holding the Beavers to 37.5 percent shooting and held an opponent under a point per possession for only the second time in the last five games.

Up 38-30 at the half, Arizona missed its first seven shots and 10 of its first 11 as the lead dwindled to three with 13:36 remaining. Thankfully the Wildcats were able to offset that with copious trips to the foul line, making eight of their first nine free throws (after going 9 of 16 in the first half) before Tubelis had back-to-back transition baskets during a 9-0 run to up the edge to 57-44 with 7:21 left.

OSU followed with a 10-1 run, capped by a 4-point play by Jarod Lucas after he was bumped by Tubelis after landing following a made 3, to get within 58-54 with 5:04 to go. Mathurin followed with five straight points, including a corner three, then Christian Koloko slammed one home to make it 65-54 with 2:24 left.

Arizona went with a new starting lineup on Thursday, reinserting Mathurin for Dalen Terry and giving freshman Kerr Kriisa his first career start in place of Terrell Brown Jr. Kriisa finished with eight points and an assist in 20 minutes.

Kriisa stepped into back-to-back swished 3s to give Arizona a 22-13 lead with 12:18 left, but what followed was a 10-minute stretch in which the Wildcats made only three baskets and missed five free throws to allow OSU to get within three.

The Beavers easily could have taken the lead had their 3-point shooting not gone cold. After starting 5 of 11 they missed their next nine and finished the game 7 of 23 from outside.

Five points by Akinjo in the final 46 seconds build Arizona’s lead back up to eight going into the half.

The Wildcats are back at it Saturday at 12 p.m. MST at McKale against Oregon. It will be the first meeting this season with the Ducks—against whom they’ve lost five straight—as their scheduled game in Eugene last month was postponed because of Oregon’s COVID issues.