Defending the 3-point line is an essential part of college basketball, and more often than not Arizona is good in this area. But when it’s not, bad things tend to happen.
The latest example of this game Thursday night when an Oregon State team that came in shooting 32.1 percent from outside made 12 of 20 3s, including the game-winner by Jordan Pope at the buzzer in an 83-80 upset for Arizona’s third consecutive road loss.
Pope was 5 of 8 from 3 for a career-high 31 points, with his final one coming on a stepback shortly after the 9th-ranked Wildcats (14-5, 5-3 Pac-12) rallied from down nine in the final 2:27. Pelle Larsson had tied the game at 80 with a pair of free throws with 11.2 seconds to go, this after Keshad Johnson stole an inbounds pass with 25.1 seconds left to give the UA a chance to tie.
Johnson had 18 points and Larsson 17, with Caleb Love scoring a team-high 23 for Arizona, which shot 52.8 percent overall and were above 50 percent in both halves. But the UA only made 3 of 14 3-point attempts, the only one of nine tries in the second half coming on a 4-point play by Love after OSU (10-9, 2-6) had taken a 77-68 lead with 2:27 remaining.
The Beavers shot 64 percent in the second half and 56.3 percent for the game, making 8 of 12 3s in the second half.
The UA is now 2-3 in games when opponents make at least 40 percent of their 3s, including the 64 percent Stanford made on New Year’s Eve. The Wildcats are 12-2 when giving up below 35 percent from deep.
Arizona led 44-36 at the half despite only making two field goals the final seven minutes, taking advantage of 20 free throw attempts (and 14 makes) in the first 20 minutes. OSU made four of its first five shots to get within 47-44 less than three minutes in, but less than three minutes later the lead was back to nine after Johnson hit a jumper in the middle of the zone.
It was a 3-point game again after Pope hit a fallaway 3, and following a UA turnover Pope hit a stepback 3 to tie it at 58 with 11:22 remaining. The Beavers then took their first lead since the opening minutes on a Tyler Bilodeau 3 with 7:40 left at 64-62.
OSU continued to light it up from outside, getting consecutive 3s from Pope and Michael Rataj to build a 74-68 lead with 3:27 to go. And following two missed Oumar Ballo free throws Bilodeau hit a stepback 3 at the end of the shot clock to make it a 9-point lead.
Bilodeau would finish with 22, making 8 of 10 shots including 3 of 4 from 3.
The Wildcats played downhill from the outset, drawing four shooting fouls in the first 4:24 of the game. They also made nine of their first 12 shots, building a 23-11 lead with 12:55 left in the first half before missing two dunks on the same possession.
That began an extended stretch where the UA struggled from the field, missing nine of 13 (with two more missed dunks) and going more than five minutes without a basket at one point. Getting to the line, though, kept the Wildcats ahead, as OSU never got closer than 41-36 with 1:03 to go before the half.
It was Arizona’s first loss in Corvallis since 2020 and dropped it to 1-3 on the road in Pac-12 play while also knocking it out of first place. Alone at the top is Oregon, an 80-61 winner Thursday over ASU, whom the Wildcats visit on Saturday afternoon.
The UA has lost six straight at Matthew Knight Arena.