Game 15: January 11, 2007
Oregon State (8-8, 0-3 Pac-10) vs. Arizona (12-2, 3-1 Pac-10)
Arena: McKale Center
The Beavers were left speechless after a 91-46 home loss to USC on Saturday. In a game where at one point they trailed by as many as 50 points, Oregon State didn't have enough answers for all the questions that the game created.
The Beavers are winless in conference play and have lost four of their last six games overall. After giving visiting LSU all they could handle in a 60-53 loss on December 17 the Beavers have just not been the same team who completed the first month of play with a 6-4 record.
After defeating Washington at Edmundson Pavilion last Thursday in a game that more closely resembled one featuring NBA teams, the Wildcats had their 12-game winning streak snapped by a Washington State squad that seems to be reveling in the underdog, "no respect" role.
There's nothing easy about Arizona's next five games (OSU, Oregon, at USC, at UCLA, North Carolina) so a quick return to their winning ways is mandatory. Playing in the friendly confines of the McKale Center will help. So will drawing the Beavers first instead of an Oregon team who is flying high off their upset of the then number one ranked UCLA Bruins last weekend.
The Pac-10 race did indeed officially heat up last week with Wazzu, Oregon and Cal all posting upsets. Is another one in the works tonight for the Beavers? Let's take a quick look and analyze the possibility.
Arizona struggled mightily to score against Washington State as the Cougars, known for their solid defense, held the Wildcats to 39.4 percent shooting from the floor (nearly 12 percentage points below their average). The good news is that the poor shooting was not because the Cougars were able to better control tempo or completely take Arizona out of their offense. Actually, it was the complete opposite. Several times during the game Arizona was able to create a frenetic pace with both teams running up and down the court. The problem is that Arizona simply could not finish shots. During the game's first five minutes there was the metaphoric lid on the Wildcats basket as shot after shot seemed to rim out. The Cougars did do a fine job in getting a hand in most shooters' faces but Arizona had more than their fair share of wide open shots that if made would have provided a different result. Against the Beavers, Arizona should easily be able to bait Oregon State into playing an up tempo game. Expect a much better offensive performance for the Wildcats who will look to improve upon their 13 team assists against Wazzu by distributing the ball more and sending more cutters to the basket than to the perimeter tonight.
Oregon State is struggling in every facet of the game right now. On offense, they're rushing shots. It's just that simple. For a team as not athletically gifted as most highly ranked teams, the Beavers need to show more patience on offense to keep their players in position to slow down teams in the transition game if they miss shots. Right now, teams are grabbing defensive rebounds and jumping out on the break because the Beavers have no court balance when on offense. There is no way the Beavers can outscore the Wildcats in a shootout so their best defense is a ball control offense
OFFENSIVE EDGE: ARIZONA
There are not many positions where the Beavers match up well with the Wildcats so expect many, if not all, of Arizona's starting to five to have strong games. OSU's biggest weakness is at guard where Tarver, Washington and McGillis actually have a negative assist to turnover ration (1.03:1.16). Expect to see the Wildcats force turnovers and get steals which could open the door to their transition game. Also expect Arizona to rub Budinger off of more screens to get the freshman more touches than he had last Saturday. Against Wazzu Budinger only took 7 shots, making three. That's just not enough for a player of his caliber.
Arizona will continue to mix man defense with their zones, but may attempt to work on their man-to-man a bit more tonight in anticipation of the Oregon game. Not to say that the Wildcats are overlooking the Beavers, but their man defense looked pretty average against Wazzu last week and needs a bit of fine tuning. If they're wise, the Beavers will look to set screens higher in their offensive sets to pull Arizona's defenders away from the basket the way the Cougars did to free up space for Cuic (12.5 PPG) and Jeffers (6.4 PPG) to operate inside. I expect Arizona will be better prepared with their weak side support this time around though which would lead to deflections, steals and even some opportunities to take the charge.
I can't see how the Beavers will be able to defend the Wildcats. If they go man, Arizona will be able to exploit every defender in isolation. In fact, if they go man the biggest beneficiary will be Shakur who should be able to get into the lane at will. If the Beavers play zone, which I think they'll have to, the Wildcats will still be able to penetrate the zone – it'll just take a few more passes around the perimeter to eventually get the Beavers out of position, creating space. Arizona has done an excellent job against zone defenses because they have been patient. All five starters can shoot the pill from the outside but the reason why this team has been so successful on offense is that for the most part they haven't settled for the jumper.
DEFENSIVE EDGE: ARIZONA
Arizona can outscore the Beavers. There's no question about that. It's Arizona's play on the defensive end that will create the blowout victory though. USC got a career high offensive performance from their senior guard Lodrick Stewart last Saturday, but it wasn't his 28 points that were the difference in that game. It was USC's defense which held the Beavers to a woeful 31.5 percent shooting (17-54 FGS) that doomed Oregon State. Expect much of the same from Arizona tonight. While I think the Beavers will shoot a slightly better field goal percentage in the shooter friendly McKale Center, I also think Arizona will still be able to disrupt Oregon State's offensive flow and force them into enough bad shoots to allow the Wildcats to get out on the break. In the end, Arizona's length and quickness will be able to overwhelm the Beavers.
Despite the loss to Wazzu Arizona actually controlled the boards for most of the game, outrebounding the Cougars 41-35. Arizona is led by Radenovic and Williams on the boards, but has received steady production from all five starters as Budinger, Shakur and McClellan each average close to five rebounds per game as well. Rebounding will a focus for the Wildcats tonight as they'll look to ignite their offense with easy transition buckets. They'll also look to send four guys to the offensive glass tonight as a Beavers counterattack is very unlikely. With Williams' and McClellan's knack for hitting the offensive glass, both players could have big nights if the effort is there.
Oregon State's 6'10" junior forward Cuic is only averaging 3.4 rebounds per game. Against the Wildcats that just won't cut it. I know Cuic is more of a perimeter player, but he'll need to get down and dirty and bang with the big boys to try and provide some sort of help to the Beavers' two leading rebounders, Jeffers and Jones. Cuic is definitely an offensive minded player though so seeing him hit the offensive boards is not beyond the realm of possibility. If he does, then maybe the Beavers stand a chance.
REBOUNDING EDGE: ARIZONA
Look for Arizona to control the boards tonight against the Beavers who on the season are shooting only 42.1 percent from the field. Arizona knows that the only way Oregon State can even remotely keep this game close is to dominate on the boards, creating second and third chance opportunities. If Arizona can neutralize Jones and Jeffers, then this statistical category shouldn't even be close. Plus, coming off their first loss in the last 13 games this team knows that the best way to ensure a victory is to rebound and play defense. Expect them to do both well tonight.
While possessions may have meant everything in the game against Wazzu, tonight they're of little concern. Surely, Arizona will look to minimize turnovers, run their offense and get good looks on every possession. That's a give. All I'm saying is that each possession against the Beaver won't carry the same premium as those against the stingy Cougars.
Expect Arizona to start very strong tonight and try to put this game away early. The Beavers are down right now and there is no reason to infuse any ounce of confidence in them to pick up their spirits. If any Arizona starter looks lethargic out there in the opening minutes, don't be surprised to see Olson go to his bench early. Arizona had a very physically demanding road trip last weekend to the Washington schools. With a game against the high flying Oregon Ducks ahead on Saturday, don't question for a second that Arizona's coaching staff is looking for nothing less than a runaway victory tonight.
To this end, Dillon, Wise and Hill will all get a few extra minutes to shine tonight because of the score and the absence of reserve forward Brielmaier.
ARIZONA 88 OSU 60