Arizona clinched at least a share of the Pac-10 title on Thursday night. The game may have actually stayed closer than it should have, but the Wildcats were still able to prevail.
inched closer to a Pac-10 championship with a 70-59 victory over Oregon State
on Thursday night. The win - combined with a loss by UCLA - gives the Wildcats sole possession of first place in the Pac-10 with one game remaining this upcoming Saturday against Oregon.
It was far from a pretty affair for the Wildcats, but the important thing is that they were able to pull away with a victory despite not playing their best basketball at times. They were able to hold a lead for much of the contest, but seemed to have trouble pulling away until late. Ultimately Arizona proved to be the better squad Thursday night and came away with a double-digit victory.
Guard Lamont Jones led all scorers with 17 points on 6-for-11 shooting. Jones hit several key shots in the second half and did a great job of getting to the basket at times where other UA players had trouble driving. Jones also added three assists and two steals to his stat sheet.
Derrick Williams had a strong performance with 15 points and dominated the glass with 12 rebounds - six of which came on the offensive end of the floor. The sophomore big man also added two assists and two steals to his totals. Williams already had a double-double by halftime, but allowed his teammates to do most of the damage in the second half. His play early on helped UA establish a decent cushion between itself and OSU in the first half.
The Wildcats were able to get good games from both of their small forwards. Starting forward Solomon Hill finished with 10 points, four rebounds and an assist. Backup Kevin Parrom also scored 10 points, grabbed a rebound and dished out two assists off the bench.
The production from the small forward position was essential to Thursday's victory. Both players found ways to penetrate Oregon State's defense and get to the basket for an easy two on more than one occassion. Hill, in particular, seemed much more aggressive around the hoop Thursday night.
Kyle Fogg had a solid all-around showing with nine points, six assists and two steals. Fogg was the only Wildcat that knocked down more than one three-point field goal, hitting three out of the five shots from long range that the Wildcats connected on.
Arizona shot poorly from beyond the arc as a squad. The Wildcats missed their first nine three-point shots and finished only 5-for-23 from long range. UA's inability to knock down open threes prevented it from running away with the game in the first half. The Wildcats must avoid shooting slumps like that from deep when the postseason hits or they could be in trouble against tougher squads.
UA was able to establish a solid lead in the first half mainly because of OSU's sloppy play on offense. The Beavers committed 14 turnovers in the game's first 16 minutes and ended up with a total of 20 on the night. Despite forcing Oregon State into so many miscues, the Wildcats were allowing OSU to stay close. Had the Beavers avoided so many early turnovers, the game would have been much closer than it was in the end. Of those 20 turnovers, nine were steals by Arizona.
On the flipside, UA took very good care of the ball Thursday night. The Wildcats only committed seven total turnovers and played a very efficient brand of basketball on the offensive end of the floor. Arizona's ability to establish a double-digit lead in the first half speaks directly to just how well it took care of the ball. Of the team's seven turnovers, only two came in the first half.