Third ranked and regular season Pac-12 Champion Arizona got all they could handle from Oregon St. Wednesday night, but in the end, prevailed for a 74-69 win. It was the same score as Oregon St. lost to UCLA by on Sunday night.
The 'Cats defense caused the Beavers to turn the ball over on 3 consecutive possessions late in the game, and then got a blocked shot by Rondae Hollis-Jefferson that led directly to the free throws that made it a 3 possession game.
Oregon St. also shot only 55% from the free throw line, making just 16 of 29, and missing 6 of 9 in the last 8+ minutes of the game.
Meanwhile, Arizona made 9 of 11 at the line in the last 2 minutes of the game, though the pressure of the close contest had led to several key 'Cat misses as well.
Tight Battle From The Get-Go
The 'Cats jumped out to a 7-0 start, forcing Oregon St. coach Craig Robinson into a timeout barely 3 minutes into the game. It was a a good move, as Devon Collier came in off the bench, for an immediate 2 + 1, and Roberto Nelson followed with a 3 pointer, and the game was "on".
The Beavers went to their 1-3-1 zone for a stretch early, and played a particularly physical game, though Angus Brandt did get tagged with a bad foul call early. Collier was the spark though.
Arizona did begin to edge ahead, as Nick Johnson had 10 points early on, and a 3 pointer by Nick Johnson made it 29-22. The 'Cats then opened their largest lead of the first half, and appeared on the verge of taking control, going up by 9 points on a lob pass from T.J. McConnell to Johnson for a spectacular dunk.
Robinson took another effective time out though, and an Olaf Schaftenaar 3 pointer started a 7-0- run, as the Beavers went back to a man defense.
Nelson got to the free throw line a half dozen times in the first half, and 2 of them pulled Oregon St. back within 31-29.
York hit his 3rd 3 pointer of the first half, but another pair of Nelson's free throws with 4.4 seconds left made it 36-33 Arizona at the break.
Johnson was already at 14 points, and Nelson 13, as the 'Cats shot 5 of 12 from behind the 3 point arc, but the Beavers were 11 of 15 from the free throw line.
Arizona opened the second half with a 4-0 run, but Oregon St. answered with a 7-0 run of their own, the last 5 of which by Nelson, to tie the game at 40 apiece, and it would go that way the rest of the way.
Johnson sank a 3 pointer to stop the run, but Hallice Cooke had back to back 3 pointers of his own, both on assists by Nelson.
Daniel Gomis got a key block, but subsequently wound up the victim of the strangest play of the game, ultimately getting a sort of flagrant 1 technical foul, after getting his arm wrapped around Kaleb Tarczewski's head.
Gomis didn't get Tarczewski with his elbow, which usually is what results in the flagrant foul, but his arm did. Arizona could only gain 1 point from the exchange though.
The 'Cats put together another 7-0 run, but the Beavers immediately matched that, as Eric Moreland retied the game at 58 apiece with just over 8 minutes to go.
It was still tied at 64 each, the 9th tie of the game, and after 9th lead changes, with over 5 minutes to go.
Game Gets Away Late As 'Cats Shut Out Beavers For 5 Minutes
But the string of turnovers caused Oregon St. to go 5 minutes without scoring, and by the time Nelson finally broke through again, it was too late, and sent the loud crowd of 5,651 most Beaver fans home disappointed, though they had seen one of the best battles of the season.
"Credit Oregon St.," Arizona head coach Sean Miller said. "They are as physical and tough a team as we have played all year."
"I was very proud of the way our guys fought, and how our students and fans turned out to help us," Robinson added.
Nelson matched Johnson for game high point honors, with 25 points for the Pac-12's leading scorer as well as for the Wildcat wonder, who posted his career high total.
Nelson will wind up having led the Pac-12 in scoring every week of the season, and be the first Beaver to lead the Pac-10/12 in scoring since Gary Payton did it.
Collier was also in double digits for Oregon St., with 14 points, and Cooke came up with 10 more. Collier also had 11 rebounds, for the game's only double double.
Both York and Tarczewski had 12 apiece to supplement Johnson for Arizona. Tarczewski just missed a double double, with 9 rebounds, to lead the 'Cats on the boards.
All of York's points came on 3 pointers.
"If he doesn't hit those 3s, we don't win tonight," Miller felt.
Moreland had a game high 12 rebounds.
Oregon St. slipped to 15-14 for the season, and 7-10 in the Pac-12. The Beavers won't be able to salvage a .500 conference campaign, and must beat Arizona St. Saturday afternoon on senior day to avoid falling to a .500 regular season.
Arizona improved to 28-2, and 15-2 in conference, and moved ever closer to locking up a #1 seed to the NCAA tournament.