No. 3 Arizona sets sights on Oregon State
Corvallis, OR (SportsNetwork.com) - With the Pac-12 title already secured, the third-ranked Arizona Wildcats have their sights set on finishing the last week of the regular season strong, starting with Wednesday's clash with the Oregon State Beavers at Gill Coliseum.
Sean Miller's Wildcats completed a flawless home slate last weekend with a 79-66 win over Stanford to earn the regular-season conference crown. The victory was the fourth straight for Arizona, which moved to an impressive 27-2 overall and 14-2 in league play.
Craig Robinson's Beavers have long been out of the conference race, but the team is still treading water at 15-13 overall. The team is coming off Sunday's 74-59 road loss at UCLA, marking the second loss in the last three games, dropping OSU to 7-9 in the conference, good for just 10th place in the standings.
Arizona owns a substantial 57-20 lead in the all-time series. The Wildcats have claimed six straight wins over the Beavers and are seeking the regular- season sweep after posting a 76-54 rout in Tucson back on Feb. 9.
The Wildcats lost a key component a few weeks ago when forward Brandon Ashley (11.5 ppg, 5.8 rpg) was lost to injury, but thanks to a talented and deep roster, the team didn't miss a beat en route to the conference crown. Arizona's success has been fueled by its strong defensive play. The Wildcats rank fifth in the nation in scoring defense (58.2 ppg) and eighth in the nation in field-goal percentage defense (.383). The team has also thrived on the boards, ranking third nationally with a +9.2 rebounding margin. Veteran guard Nick Johnson highlights the play at the offensive end, averaging a team- best 16.0 ppg. Freshman star Aaron Gordon is second in scoring (12.2 ppg) and first in rebounding (8.0 rpg). Sophomore center Kaleb Tarczewski (10.1 ppg, 6.6 rpg) adds another option at both ends of the floor.
Gordon was unstoppable in the conference-clinching win over Stanford, as he finished with 19 points and a career-high 15 rebounds. Four other Wildcats notched double-digit scoring totals in the balanced attack. T.J. McConnell finished with 14 points, followed by Gabe York (12 pts), Johnson (11 pts) and Tarczewski (10 pts).
While Arizona utilizes stifling defensive play to pile up the wins, Oregon State has relied on its scoring prowess for the most part this season. The Beavers are averaging a steady 75.4 ppg on the year, while shooting an impressive .483 from the floor overall. Senior guard Roberto Nelson will pick up all-conference honors this season as the Pac-12's leading scorer. Nelson is shooting just over 40 percent from behind the arc and putting up a hefty 20.4 ppg, all while finding time to lead OSU in assists (3.7 apg) as well. Devon Collier and Angus Brandt help out with 13.6 and 12.5 ppg, respectively. Eric Moreland nets 8.1 ppg, but does more work on the glass, leading the conference at 9.8 rpg.
Oregon State shot a sizzling 56 percent from the floor in the first half and held a nine-point lead at intermission against UCLA, but went ice-cold over the final 20 minutes (.385) and dropped a five-point decision to the Bruins at Pauley Pavilion. Nelson went 6-of-10 from the floor and 7-of-8 from the free- throw line to finish with a team-high 23 points. Collier added 15 points off the bench, while Moreland grabbed a game-high 13 rebounds in the disappointing loss.