No. 9 Arizona will be looking for answers — and its offense — when it plays Oregon State on Thursday night in Corvallis, Ore.
The Wildcats (14-2, 3-2 Pac-12) are coming off a shocking 74-61 loss to Washington State that ended their 28-game home winning streak and continued a troubling trend in conference play. Their four lowest-scoring games of the season have come against Pac-12 opponents.
Keep in mind that Arizona led the country in scoring in mid-December and was second in field-goal percentage heading into the new year.
But in its past 100 minutes of action — starting at halftime at Arizona State and continuing through home matchups vs. Washington and Washington State — Arizona is shooting 32.9 percent (51 of 155).
“No one’s guaranteed victory or success,” said Wildcats coach Tommy Lloyd. “We have to go out and fight for who we want to be every single game. … We’re a high character program. I love these players. And we’ve got to solve how to bounce back from this.”
Arizona will try to do so against young Oregon State (7-9, 1-4), which is 7-1 at home, including a one-point victory over Washington on Dec. 1. Freshmen have accounted for more than 40 percent of Oregon State’s minutes played this season. That includes Jordan Pope, who is averaging a team-high 12.3 points and is the team’s most prolific 3-point shooter (27 of 69, 39.1 percent).
Pope, however, was pulled from the starting lineup Saturday in an ugly 62-42 loss at Colorado. He ended up scoring five points in 29 minutes.
“We had to do something because we’re not playing with the toughness we needed to. So as a staff we said, ‘Let’s try to find our toughest group,'” said OSU coach Wayne Tinkle. “We’re going to keep searching until we find a group that will start the way we need to offensively and defensively.”
Mostly, the Beavers will try to control Arizona by slowing the pace, stopping transition and making the Wildcats run set offense through their guards, not talented big men Azuolas Tubelis and Oumar Ballo.
For example, starters Kerr Kriisa, Courtney Ramey and Pelle Larsson were 6 of 24 from the field in the loss to the Cougars. It was a similar story in an 81-66 conference loss at Utah on Dec. 1. The three starters combined to make a scant 5 of 27 from the field.
Ramey has scored a total of 10 points in the past three games, hitting 2 of 14 from 3-point range, to drop his season scoring average to 9.8.
“Courtney obviously didn’t have a great weekend,” Lloyd said after the WSU game, “but I love that guy. And I’ve got to do a good job of making sure he keeps his confidence high, because we need him to be good for us to be good.”
Tubelis is still hot, averaging 20.6 points and 9.1 rebounds. Ballo (16.8, 8.9) wasn’t quite himself last week. He was sick and needed to go to the hospital after returning from the ASU game on Dec. 31, Lloyd said. The coach added that Ballo appeared to be back up to speed in practice early this week.
–Field Level Media