No. 24 Arizona is a half-game out of the Pac-12 lead as it enters what some might see as a revenge homestand.
The Wildcats (18-7, 8-4) were swept on the road last month at the Oregon schools; now they host the pair in Tucson this week, starting with Oregon State (15-10, 5-8) on Thursday night.
The Beavers blitzed Arizona late in the first meeting, turning a five-point lead at the midway point of the second half into an 82-65 victory in Corvallis. Arizona coach Sean Miller is focusing on improvement as a better motivation than payback.
“Somebody told me a long time ago that revenge kills you,” Miller said. “You start thinking in those terms, it’s not healthy in any way, shape or form. For us, especially as the calendar turns to late February, we just want to play well.”
Arizona did play well last week, sweeping Cal and Stanford on the road, although it didn’t shoot well. Better 3-point shooting could be the boost the Wildcats need in the final six regular-season games to get a league title.
They have shot 24 of 100 from beyond the arc in the past five games.
Miller credited improving defense for last week’s road sweep.
“We outrebounded Stanford. We took care of the ball, especially at Cal. And we were able to leave with two good road wins,” he said. “This week, my hope is we can be a more efficient, better shooting team against both Oregon State and Oregon.”
Much of that attention in that area will be on Wildcats point guard Nico Mannion, who leads the nation’s freshman in assists (5.3 per game) but is 15 of 57 from the field, including 4 from 23 from behind the arc, in the past five games.
“It’s just a matter of time before Nico breaks through,” Miller said. “He can’t let what has happened over the last game or the last shot affect the shot he’s taking, or the next game or the next week.”
The Beavers have four Quad 1 victories — one more than Arizona — winning at Colorado and Stanford, and beating Arizona and Oregon at home. They have one of the best stat-stuffers in the nation in Tres Tinkle (18.3 points, 7.1 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 2.0 steals) and another all-conference candidate in Ethan Thompson (15.1 points, 4.2 assists).
Tinkle set a school record in Saturday night’s 69-47 home loss to Colorado by reaching double-digit points in his 90th consecutive game.
Tinkle and Thompson didn’t get enough help against the Buffaloes as the rest of the team combined for just 20 points.
“Didn’t see it coming,” coach Wayne Tinkle said. “For whatever reason, we didn’t scrap like we have been scrapping, didn’t put up the fight we thought we would. … We have to admit it. It was a woodshed job. We just didn’t have enough people trying to respond and battle back.
“All we need to do now is get ourselves better the next couple days, prepare for our next opponent, and make sure we’re that much more ready to go after it.”
Tinkle and Thompson combined for 38 points in the first meeting against Arizona, when the Beavers got needed contributions from others, including three teammates who were in double figures. Oregon State made 27 of 50 shots in that game, often succeeding on drives to the basket.
–Field Level Media