No team in the Pac-12 is better at getting to the free throw line than Arizona. No team in the conference is worse at giving up free throws than Oregon State.
On Sunday night, the charity stripe could be the decisive factor as the No. 7 Wildcats (14-1, 2-0) hope to pick up a road trip sweep with a win over the Beavers (10-4, 1-1).
Against Oregon, Arizona converted on 24 of 30 free throw attempts in what turned out to be a second half foul-fest. It was sluggish and hard to watch but there’s no arguing with the results of an 18 point victory margin.
After all, Arizona hit 80 points for the first time since dropping 101 on Oakland.
The Wildcats will have a tough time matching that total against the Beavers, who play a deliberately slow tempo. Oregon State holds opponents to an average 57 points per game – 17th best in the country.
However, the Beavers’ style serves as a double-edge sword in that it requires them to commit a high number of fouls. If Arizona makes its freebies as it has been, Oregon State may not stay in the game for long.
A few things do favor Oregon State’s way, namely that the Beavers have yet to lose at home this year. That includes a dismantling of DePaul and a solid win over Mississippi State.
Gary Payton II has led the way by averaging 12.4 points and eight rebounds per game. The 6’3 guard can do a little bit of everything but his biggest impact might be on defense, where he averages 2.9 steals per game, which ranks fifth in the country.
Payton II will face his toughest matchup of the season when he goes up against TJ McConnell, who is coming off a 21 point outing. Arizona’s senior point guard put things into his own hands on Wednesday, making nine of 14 field goal attempts.
With Elliott Pitts getting over a hand injury and Gabe York in the midst of a slump, don’t be surprised to see McConnell go off again.
On the wing and in the paint, Oregon State doesn’t have the athleticism nor size to hang with Arizona’s troop of NBA talent. The Beavers will try to embrace contact and force the Wildcats into tough shots but the more likely outcome is continuous trips to the line.
Make the easy ones and Arizona leaves Corvallis without much a sweat.