Devon Collier has become the most vital Beaver. It may take a lot of dramatic dunks the likes of which helped, but weren't enough, in Oregon St.'s last 2 losses to Oregon and Arizona St., to outscore Arizona. - (Photo by Andy Wooldridge)
#3 Arizona (14-1, 1-1) vs. Oregon St. (10-5, 0-2) / Gill Coliseum / 5 PM PST / ESPNU / KEJO 1240 AM / KEX 1190 AM
Oregon St. hosts Arizona to wrap up the Beavers' Pac-12 season opening home stand, in a game both teams are in position to need to treat as a near must-win, after both lost early leads and could never catch back up, ultimately losing their games Thursday night.
How they lost
The 'Cats, off to their best start to a season since 1932, got off to an 11-0 start against Oregon, only to see the Ducks come flying back, outscoring Arizona 41-19 from then until halftime. Oregon opened as much as a 14 point lead, and led by 12 points with 3 minutes left.
Bue Oregon didn't make another basket from the field after an E.J. Singler 3 pointer with 6:49 left against the Arizona defense, and the 'Cats rallied to within 3 points on Nick Joshnon's 3 pointer with 53 seconds left.
But the Ducks made 7 of their final 8 free throws, something the 'Cats couldn't defend, and Arizona missed as many 3 pointers as they made down the stretch, resulting in the game and their undefeated season slipping away, as Oregon won 70-66.
Arizona was led by a game high 21 points from 6'1" senior guard Mark Lyons, who is the 'Cats leading scorer, averaging 14.5 points per game. 6'7" senior forward Soloman Hill, Arizona's second leading scorer, exceeded his 13.5 ppg average with a 16 point night, the second highest point total of the game.
Oregon St. took and early lead, and after Arizona St. rallied, took another lead late in the first half on a Devon Collier dunk. But the Sun Devils then put together a 34-11 run that spanned halftime, building a lead the Beavers' second unit mostly but not completely overcame.
Oregon St. shut Arizona St. out for 5 1/2 minutes, and held the Sun Devils to 3 of 17 shooting over an 11 minute stretch, twice pulling within 4 points, once with less than 4 minutes left. But the Beavers, playing without suspended Eric Moreland, ran out of gas, and Arizona St. pulled back out to a 13 point lead, before settling for a 72-62 win.
Collier, who started in place of Moreland, led Oregon St., with 18 points, but the only other Beaver in double figures was Ahmad Starks, and he only had 10 points.
Last year, Oregon St. and Arizona also only met once, and the Beavers took the 'Cats to overtime in Tucson before losing 81-73. It was the second consecutive game the Beavers lost in overtime, having repeatedly blown opportunities to beat Stanford, ultimately losing 103-101 in 4 overtimes 5 days earlier.
Oregon St. had the lead with 32 seconds left, and then had the ball and 2 timeouts with 12 seconds left, yet didn't get a quality shot up, and didn't use the timeouts. After a bench clearing melee, Arizona pulled away in overtime.
Jared Cunningham led Oregon St. with 22 points, close to the game high Kyle Fogg had for Arizona. Starks had 14, and Collier came off the bench for 11. Johnson, then a freshman, had 19 points. Johnson is averaging 12 points a game this season,
The 'Cats and Beavers met again in the semi-finals of the Pac-12 Tournament, and Arizona prevailed again, winning 72-61, as Oregon St. ran out of gas, showing the effects of having to play an extra game in the first day of the tournament.
Fogg, long a thorn in Oregon St.'s side, again led all scorers, with 22 points, while Roberto Nelson came off the Oregon St. bench to lead the Beavers, with 19. Collier added 15 points, and pulled down 8 rebounds, and also blocked a pair of shots.
Bigger than usual game
It's the first time in 6 years that a top 5 ranked mens' team has visited Gill Coliseum, since Jan. 4 2007, when UCLA was ranked #1 when they came through town, though the 'Cats' loss at Matt Court might cost them that status when next week's poll comes out.
The last time Oregon St. beat a top 5 team, it was Arizona, ranked #3 then as well, on Mar. 2, 2000, when the Beavers prevailed 70-69 in overtime.
The key to the Ducks' upset win was balance, as they were 1 point by Damyear Dotson away from having all 5 of their starters in double figures. Ball movement to find the open shot made Arizona expend effort defensively, and as a result, the 'Cats shot only under 44% for the game. That's only slightly below their season average of 46%, but reduced opportunity held them 10 points below their season average.
The moral of the story is Arizona doesn't necessarily dominate their opponents, and has a half dozen single digit wins, including their last 3, dating back to Christmas day. But coach Sean Miller had a team that battles at the end, as evidenced by their late run at the Ducks. To have a shot at the win, and avoiding their first 0-3 start to conference play since the 0-18 season 5 years ago, Oregon St. needs ball movement, balanced offense, and good matchup defense.
That'll be a challenge, given that the Beavers will again be without Moreland, as well as Victor Robbins, both of whom are still suspended for violations of team rules head coach Craig Robinson has yet to explain the details of.
Arizona has dominated the series against Oregon St. winning 50 of the 75 meetings, and even 20 of the 34 previous meetings in Gill Coliseum. Beaver Nation would prefer to recall what happened the last times the 'Cats came to Corvallis though. That game of course was the night of Cunningham's "Kiss the Sky" putback dunk that helped propel the Beavers to a 76-75 win back on Jan. 2 2011, and became the highlight of Fox Sports Net's Pac-12 promo package for a year.
If your are recording the NFC playoff game and watching one of the few Oregon St. games on widely distributed channels (one benefit of playing highly ranked opponents is the escape from the limited availability of the Pac-12 channel), here's the place to discuss how Oregon St. is doing at breaking out of their conference race opening slump, and whether they can pull the upset that could re-energize their season.