Oregon St. (13-9, 5-5) at #2 Arizona (22-1, 9-1) / McHale Center, Tucson, AZ / 5 PM MST (4 PM PST) / Fox Sports 1 / KEJO 1240 AM / KEX 1190 AM
Oregon St. completes their swing through the southwestern desert with a visit to Tucson today to take on second ranked Arizona.
The Beavers come in after letting one get away Thursday evening, dropping an 86--82 overtime decision to the Sun Devils in Tempe. Roberto Nelson, the Pac-12 leading scorer, bounced back after scoring only 2 points in the first half to finish with a game high 26 points, enough to move him past Charlie Sitton for 5th place on Oregon St.'s all-time scoring list.
Angus Brandt and Devon Collier off the Beaver bench both came up with 14 point nights, and freshman guard Hallice Cooke, who leads the conference in 3 point shooting, connected on 3 of 4 3 pointers, and finished with 11 points.
However, Eric Moreland was frustrated offensively, and held to only 8 points, though he did have a game high 17 rebounds against Arizona St.
But a series of errors down the stretch ended Oregon St.'s bid for their best start to the conference season after 10 games in 21 years, and instead dropped the Beavers into a tie for seventh in the Pac-12. The last 2 of the Beavers' 15 turnovers in the game came in the last 2 minutes of overtime, leading to 5 Arizona St. points.
This is still only the second time in those 21 years that Oregon St. has been at or above .500 in conference after 10 years, though.
With sophomore forward Brandon Ashley out for the season after suffering a foot injury early in last Saturday's 60-58 loss at California, the 'Cats played only 7 players in Thursday night's 67-65 win over visiting Oregon.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson moved into the starting lineup in place of Ashley, and posted a 14 point, 10 rebound double double. Only Gabe York and freshman Elliott Pits, who saw his minutes and importance explode against the Ducks, came in off the Wildcat bench.
Guard Nick Johnson, Arizona's leading scorer, averaging 16.2 points per game, stepped it up against the Ducks, with a game high 18 points, and center Kaleb Tarczewski added 12. But Adam Gordon, the 'Cats second leading scorer for the season, was held to just 6 points by the Ducks, half of his average of 11.5.
Ashley averaged 11.5 points and 5.8 rebounds per game before being injured, and the absence of his 6'8" frame has transformed the not very deep Arizona squad into much more of a perimeter team than was previously the case. His presence had a lot to do with the 'Cats' interior defense, and his absence makes it a priority for Oregon St. to get something going inside offensively.
That's wasn't likely going to be the game plan prior to Ashley's injury, but suddenly getting a split on the desert trip with the win over Arizona seems much more achievable for Oregon St., who hasn't won at the McKale Center since 2010, and only once since 1983, when Sitton, A.C. Green, and Danny Evans were playing for Ralph Miller.
The 'Cats have won 5 in a row against the Beavers, including an 80-70 win by then 3rd ranked Arizona last year in Gill Coliseum, in the team's only meeting of the season, as the Pac-12 schedule rotation did not provide the Oregon schools a return trip to the desert last year.
Oregon St.'s last win against Arizona was on Jan. 2, 2011, when Jared Cunningham's "Kiss the sky" highlight dunk propelled the Beavers to the 76-75 win that capped a 3 game winning streak in the series that Arizona otherwise holds a 56-20 edge in.
The 'Cats have won the last 5 meetings in the McKale Center, and 29 of the last 30, giving them a 30-6 advantage over the Beavers in Tucson.