The Arizona Wildcats (23-1, 10-1) cruised to a 76-54 victory Sunday night over the Beavers of Oregon State (13-10, 5-6). Contrary to the previous four contests, Arizona was able to establish an offensive rhythm early in the game and used it to cruise to an easy victory.
On the win-
I liked that Arizona was able to regain some of their early game mojo in this one, as they traded early baskets but eventually used a first-half surge to take control of things.
When inferior teams are allowed to hang around for long stretches they can become very dangerous, and Arizona used a very focused effort to quell any hopes of an upset. As the Cats head out for what should be three difficult road matchups over the next two weeks, it is imperative that they get out to quick starts to avoid dealing with already frenetic crowds.
On containing Roberto Nelson-
It still surprises me to see Roberto Nelson’s name on top of the scoring department for the Pac-12, but there is no doubt he is a very talented playmaker. As has been the case for most of the season, Arizona was able to use a collective effort on the defensive end to take away an opposition’s top scorer. Nelson was forced into difficult shots all night long, and had it not been for a few late foul calls he would not have broken double digits in the scoring column.
Perhaps most impressive was Arizona’s ability to defend Nelson without fouling. I have mentioned this on many occasions previous to this, but the way Zona is able to funnel offensive players into help defenders and contest shots without fouling continues to impress me with each passing game. Nelson, who averages over eight free throw attempts per game, finished with four attempts (and makes), all of them coming within the last few minutes.
On limiting Oregon State’s three point opportunities-
Not only did Arizona do a great job containing Nelson individually, but they also did a number on Oregon State’s supplemental shooters. The Beavers shot 4-12 from deep, with two makes coming from big man Angus Brandt, shots the Cats will ultimately live with. Nelson receives a lot of the credit for the Beavers’ productive offense, but OSU was shooting over 48% from three coming into this game, a simply eye-popping percentage.
Arizona continues to limit the effectiveness of opponent’s “A” game on the offensive end, and by chasing OSU shooters off the three-point line they were able to take advantage of the Beavers’ inability to finish against the Wildcats’ height.
On Arizona’s attention to rebounding-
Following the win over Oregon where Arizona surrendered 13 offensive rebounds to an undersized Ducks squad, the Wildcats looked as though they were making a concentrated effort to crash the boards against OSU. Arizona outrebounded OSU 39-24, and the Wildcats pulled down 15 offensive rebounds, many of which led to second chance buckets. Arizona held the Beavers to zero, yes, ZERO, second chance points, an impressive feat regardless of the opponent.
On Elliot Pitts/Jordin Mayes-
One of the things I am sure most Wildcat fans are watching for in the absence of Brandon Ashley is who will be the next bench player to step up and produce. Pitts received playing time against Oregon and responded with decent production, and once again he was able to provide the regular rotation guys with a rest as he chipped in another solid effort against OSU.
Although he did not score, he continues to show he has a nose for the ball as he is usually near the area where the rebound falls, and as he gains experience and gets his timing back I look for him to be able to provide a few positive plays per night.
Mayes, on the other hand, has essentially been missing since Pac-12 play began. In only five minutes tonight he tallied nine points, surpassing his total thus far in conference play. It has been mentioned time and time again what it would mean to this team if Mayes were to be able to find some traction and regain some confidence, and his performance Sunday should go a long way towards doing just that. All that is left is for us to just cross our fingers and hope for more of the same.
On T.J. McConnell-
McConnell put forth a very good effort Sunday night, as he was right in the middle of the first half run that put Arizona in control. He finished with 11 points and six assists, doing most of his damage in the aforementioned run.
McConnell has had to deal with a bit of adversity as of late as his assist numbers have dipped, but I think it has had more to do with the general offensive struggles of the team, as he has set up many good looks for guys that they have been unable to convert. McConnell has shown the ability to both seek and convert his shot when needed, and Arizona will need to lean on him as much as ever on the upcoming road trips.
On Rondae Hollis-Jefferson-
Another game, another outstanding effort from RHJ. He has answered the call to the starting lineup with two double-digit scoring efforts, and most importantly has remained efficient in doing so. He has gotten out of control at times earlier in the year, but it is an encouraging sign to see he has been letting the game come to him given his increased expectations.
On Aaron Gordon-
Gordon was able to get back on track against the Beavers following a string of subpar performances, displaying his athleticism both around the rim and on the boards. He also dropped in his first three-point make since late December, which will undoubtedly serve as a confidence booster as insignificant as it may sound.
Arizona has shown the ability to really dominate games where Gordon plays well offensively, and the team’s recent struggles directly correlate with his individual struggles, so it is critical that he pack his offensive game in his suitcase as the Cats hit the road.
On the next two weeks-
I feel Arizona catches a break in getting an extended practice period prior to their matchup with in-state rival Arizona State. The Cats will need all the repetitions they can get as they continue to integrate new parts into their rotation. These road trips will be a good test for the in-transition Wildcats, as all three teams they face the next two weeks are coming off weekend sweeps and are playing very solid basketball.