Arizona-Oregon St. Preview
On the surface, No. 14 Arizona facing host Oregon State would look like a one-sided game favoring the Wildcats.
But history has shown the unranked Beavers have been able to knock off the ranked Wildcats six times in 29 seasons, most recently three years ago.
This season, Oregon State (13-13, 5-9 in the Pac-12 Conference) seemingly has all the tools to give Arizona fits when it is on offense. Arizona struggles against a zone defense and in slow-down games.
"They are a very physical team," said Arizona coach Sean Miller, whose team is 21-6 overall and 11-3 in conference. "(They) takes a lot of pride in their half-court defense. They do it by playing a lot of zone (but) not all zone. Even when they are in man-to-man, they are very physical."
Miller pointed to Drew Eubanks, who leads the Pac-12 with 2.4 blocked shots per game.
Eubanks "is one of the more underrated players in our conference. He's very good. Part of Oregon State's physicality is him. He's rugged and he does it on defense and offense."
Miller said in Arizona's 62-53 win earlier this season, the Wildcats could not get enough good shots because of Oregon State's defense.
"We had large segments in that game where we didn't play exceptionally well," Miller said. "We're going to have to be better this time around."
It might be perfect timing for Arizona that it has played some of its best basketball in the last two games, if only in stretches in one and for most of the 40 minutes in another.
Arizona is coming off wins over Southern California and Arizona State, respectively. Against USC, Arizona played perhaps its best game of the season, playing excellent in transition and on defense.
Against Arizona State, the Wildcats jumped out to a 30-15 lead only to lose the lead after a 31-6 run by the Sun Devils. Arizona regrouped and won going away, 77-70.
Miller said he does see "a confidence about us" that is good. Adding that his team does realize March is just around the corner and there is still plenty to play for.
"The end is near and sometimes that can really bring out the best in the group," Miller said. "Hopefully that will be ours."
Senior center Dusan Ristic of Arizona is one win away from tying the school for wins for a career. He has 109 and is one shy of former players Matt Muehlebach (1988-91) and Kaleb Tarczewski (2013-16).
The Beavers are hoping to make an end-of-the-season run.
Last week, despite losing, they played USC and UCLA close. Miller pointed that out and forward Tres Tinkle said: "It's not really out of the question" when asked about Oregon State's postseason hopes still being there.
"We've played with every single team, so if we get this thing flipped I think we could make a run for ourselves in the (Pac-12) tournament," Tinkle told reporters.
Arizona goes into the weekend with a 11/2-game lead on UCLA and USC with four games remaining in the regular season. It's gone 9-2 in the last 11 games.
"I think they are much more comfortable in their skin and everybody (is comfortable) in their roles," Oregon State coach Wayne Tinkle told reporters this week. " ...They're experienced, they've been tested. I think they've really matured probably in the last four or five weeks."
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