The Arizona Wildcats won their fifth consecutive game Wednesday night, defeating the Oregon State Beavers 74-69 in Corvalis, Oregon. Oregon State, playing mostly for pride at this point, used a very spirited effort to keep close at points where it looked like Arizona was going to run away with things. However, much as they have done all season, Arizona was able to make plays down the stretch to eventually pull away from the upset-minded home team.
Wednesday was one of the few times all year in which I felt comfortable saying Arizona’s opponent played harder than the Wildcats did. This is not meant to be a knock on the Cats as I felt they competed well all game long, but more so a compliment to Oregon State for really putting forth a quality effort. Arizona had multiple opportunities to pull away from the Beavers in both halves, however each time Oregon State was able to convert offensive opportunities and claw themselves back into contention.
In my opinion, one of the reasons for this was because Arizona seemed to be a half step slower than they were last weekend. Of course, there could be multiple explanations for this. Playing away from home, playing at the end of the regular season, having already won the Pac-12 regular season, looking ahead to Oregon this weekend, all of these are possible scenarios for a small letdown. The most likely scenario, however, is probably just the law of averages after a string of spectacular efforts.
Arizona had played so well the past few weeks that they were due to come down a little bit. Their bench, which had played a significant role on offense in the last home stand, was absent outside of contributions from Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. Some of this could be due to the fact that Gabe York was inserted back into the starting lineup, but it also was just normal ebbs and flows of sparingly used guys trying to develop consistency.
Arizona was once again able to win an ugly game in which an opponent played at or near their ceiling, and their continued ability to do so makes me very confident in the Cats’ chances come tournament time.
On Arizona’s rebounding-
The most obvious impact of Oregon State’s effort and tenaciousness was seen on the offensive glass. The Beavers pulled down 16 offensive rebounds in this one, and for the first time all year I felt like Arizona’s big men were struggling with the physicality of an opponent in the paint.
Granted, Oregon State deserves a ton of credit (Devon Collier, especially) for hitting tough shots throughout the game, but I found myself waiting for Arizona to push back and gain control of the glass and that never really came to fruition.
On Gabe York-
York, to me, was the player that initially got Arizona going in the first half. After sprinting to a quick seven-point lead, Arizona struggled with Oregon State’s lengthy zone, showing flashes of halfcourt offense from the ASU game in Tempe. On came York, and off went Arizona.
At this point it is no secret how important York is to Arizona’s chances going forward, I just hope he continues to shoot often and shoot it well, because I don’t know if the Wildcats can go on a deep run without him.
On Kaleb Tarczewski-
Another very efficient night for Zeus. 12 points on only four field goal attempts is simply a microcosm of Zeus’ contributions as of late. Since the Ashley injury he has tallied double figures in seven of nine games, all while shooting less than seven times per game. He needs to touch the ball more in the halfcourt going forward.
On T.J. McConnell-
I thought T.J’s first half was one of his worst in a Wildcat uniform, but I liked how he continued to take open shots even when they weren’t falling. A few weeks ago, Arizona was almost defending themselves by refusing to shoot open looks early in the clock, however as the calendar has turned guys have become more aggressive, with the results speaking for themselves.
On Aaron Gordon-
Gordon has had his share of offensive struggles this year, but he has always continued to play through things on the defensive end. That is why I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw he only had two rebounds at the final whistle. Arizona can overcome a lot of obstacles when it comes to winning ugly, but I am not sure they can survive without rebounding very often, and AG will be a big part of that collective effort.
On the upcoming Oregon matchup-
Oregon can virtually lock up an NCAA bid this weekend with a victory over Arizona, and you better believe they will be amped to do so. However, Arizona must be sure to not buy into the buildup for the game because, for them, this is just a final tune up for postseason play.
Oregon still has many issues despite their recent turnaround. They rely too heavily on isolation basketball, which is a pending disaster against Arizona. But, like Oregon State, they have some scorers that can be deadly if given too much room and time. Arizona should just stay the course and hope to play a solid game and make it through healthy and in tact. The priority should still be to season some of the reserves as much as possible while still remaining competitive.