It was nineteen days ago when the Oregon State men's basketball team was able to shock the then #7 ranked Arizona Wildcats 58 to 56 on January 11th. This time around the Beavers were coming off their worse game of the season, a 73 to 55 loss to Arizona State; whereas the Wildcats were coming off one of their more impressive wins, a 90 to 56 dismantling of Oregon.
Coming in it could have been seen as a classic "revenge" game for Arizona if the Wildcats overall were not one of, if not the hottest teams in the country. After the loss to Oregon State the Wildcats have been on an impressive five game winning streak. A streak that has seen only Stanford keep pace at all with Arizona, and a streak including a dominating 69 to 59 win over the then #8 Utah Utes.
Oregon State's path to the rematch was a bit more uneven, with a loss to Washington but then three straight wins against Washington State, UCLA, and USC before the Wednesday night loss to Arizona State. But still the Beavers were coming into the game with a surprising 5 and 3 conference record and overall 14 and 6 record.
The game started out with the Beavs going with their standard starting line up: Daniel Gomis, Langston Morris-Walker, Gary Payton II, Olaf Schaftenaar, and Malcolm Duvivier. An initial possible ominous sign of the game was the first Arizona score coming after a sloppy Oregon State turnover play. But another sign, of the first half at least, was that Oregon State was able to answer with a Duvivier basketball and then a Goomis tip-in that put the Beavers up 4 to 2.
The early stages of the game continued to favor the Beavs with a slower and defensive dominated pace, which saw only three baskets scored in the first five minutes along with six turnovers combined by both teams. But at the 14:15 mark T.J. McConnell hit a key 3-point shot to put Arizona up 8 to 4, but back-to-back baskets by Jarmal Reid and Duvivier kept the Beavers close. Oregon State was still able to keep the tempo in their favor throughout the first ten minutes. Indeed the game was a striking contrast to the Arizona match-up against Oregon that saw a 22 to 13 score in favor of the Wildcats at the ten minute mark of the half versus only a 11 to 8 UA lead versus Oregon State.
But as the half progressed Arizona was able to drive and power into the paint, and a Brandon Ashley dunk followed by a Stanley Johnson driving jumper basket allowed Arizona to break open the Oregon State zone enough for a 13 to 8 lead. Malcolm Duvivier though drilled a huge 3-point basket as the shot clock was winding down, then the Beavs forced a turnover to then tie up the game again on a spectacular tip by Gary Payton II on his own miss. This though was the last time Arizona allowed the score of the game to get away from their lead.
The next three minutes saw a back-and-forth of missed shots and turnovers by both teams, again though it was Arizona who broke things a bit open with a Gabe York 3-point shot. The Wildcats then forced an offensive foul on Payton II all of which led to the Wildcats grinding out a 7 point lead after a three-point play by Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. Arizona was unable to really fire up the next cylinder, but does pull away a bit more from the Beavers behind a 11 to 0 scoring run (much of which was due to Oregon State not being able to execute at all against the Arizona defense for the last 7:45 of the first half), to go to the half time break up 24 to 13. Again all of which was in stark contrast to Arizona's 48 hour previous first half performance that saw the Wildcats up 42 to 27 against Oregon.
In Oregon State 2015 men's basketball fashion it was not the prettiest and most dynamic of basketball played, but the Beavers were able to keep the game well within reach against the #6 ranked Arizona Wildcats going into the halftime locker room.
The first half stats saw Oregon State shooting 30% (6-20) from the field, including only 1 for 8 in 3-point shots. The Beavs did not reach the foul line at all, had 16 rebounds, and 11 turnovers. On the other side of the ball Arizona shot 42.9% (9-21) and went 2 for 5 from the 3-point arc; they also hit 4 for 7 of their free throws, had 13 rebounds, and 7 turnovers. The leader scorers at halftime were Malcolm Duvivier with 7 points and three other players chipped in with only 2 points each for Oregon State; and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson led Arizona with 6 points and three Wildcat players had 4 points each (and all of Arizona's starters scored).
The opening minutes of the second half saw some spectacular blocks and solid defensive plays by both teams, but Oregon State strikes first finally on two Olaf Schaftenaar free throws at the 17:42 mark, and then a Daniel Goomis breaks the OSU field goal drought on a powerful dunk to cut into the Wildcats lead to 24 to 17. Really though Oregon State's shooting continued to be cold, and it took solid defense and getting some bounces go their way to keep the Beavs close.
Arizona finally broke out of their own scoring drought on a Elliott Pitts three-point play at the 15:06 mark, and this opens things up for a key 3-point shot by T.J. McConnell to put the Wildcats up 30 to 17.
Back-to-back baskets by Jarmal Reid and Cheikh N'diaye bring the Arizona lead back down to single digits, but then the Beavs quickly see the Wildcats go back up 34 to 21 at the 12:33 mark. From here it became all about Arizona chipping away at the Oregon State defense, and the Beavers offense continue its shooting woes against the UA defense. Even Olaf Schaftenaar finally finding his stroke for his first 3-pointer of the night saw Brandon Ashley come right back and convert a three-point play to answer. Indeed the key middle part of the second half saw Arizona pull away and control the paint for a 43 to 25 lead at the 8:31 mark.
Again as much as it seemed Arizona would pull completely away they could not fully put Oregon State down until the very last couple of minutes of the game. The Wildcats' defense was strong, and vastly improved over the last meeting between the two teams, but at the same time the Beavers still had their open looks but jsut could not hit the key baskets to close the Arizona lead to under 15 points. Additionally the athletic depth of Arizona was just too much in the last five minutes and even though it was not a full blow out the score seemed to imply the Wildcats were able to wear down Oregon State for a 57 to 34 win.
For the game Oregon State shot 28.6% (14-49) from the field, went 3 for 15 in 3-point shots, hit 3 of 5 free throws, had 27 rebounds, and turned it over 17 times. The Beavers were led by Olaf Schaftenaar with 8 points and Malcolm Duvivier and Jarmal Reid both contributed 7 points, but Arizona shut down Gary Payton II who only had 6 points after his 23 points night against Arizona State Wednesday and 21 points against USC last weekend (and the hero of the January 11th OSU win over Arizona Langston Morris-Walker did not score). Arizona shot 40.8% (20-49) overall, hit only 4 for 12 three-point shots, made 13 of their 16 free throw attempts, had 37 rebounds, and had 16 turnovers. The Wildcats were led by Brandon Ashley who had 12 points and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson who had 11 points.
In the end the Beavs played a tough game against a very good basketball team in the Arizona Wildcats, but Oregon State just did not have the depth and this time around the home court advantage to tap into. The final score in many ways reflected this, but also in other ways did not fully represent the effort Oregon State put into a game where the odds were stacked against them.
It was Oregon State's lowest point output in a game since 1984.
It was also a game where both teams deserved credit. Oregon State deserved credit for playing the Wildcats tough in a game where one figured Arizona would be out to make statement against their only to date conference loss opponent, and Arizona deserved credit in doing what championship teams do and ground out a dominating win that may not have been as flashy as they hoped for, but went into the win column nonetheless.
Oregon State goes to 5 and 4 in conference play and 14 and 7 overall, and will defend their 12 and 0 at home record against Washington State next Thursday night at 7:00pm. Arizona extends their record to 8 and 1 in Pac-12 play and 20 and 2 overall. The Wildcats will return to the hardwood next Saturday for an instate battle against the Arizona State Sun Devils.