GAME NOTES: The second-ranked Arizona Wildcats will be in action on Sunday when they bring in the Oregon State Beavers for a Pac-12 Conference conflict at the McKale Center.
Oregon State is just a week removed from its 71-67 upset of UCLA. However, the Beavers dropped an 86-82 decision in overtime against Arizona State in the meantime, falling to 13-9 overall and to an even 5-5 in league play in the process. They will visit in-state rival Oregon next.
Coming off its first loss of the season, Arizona nearly slipped up again, only to escape with a 67-65 win over Oregon on Thursday. The win was the 22nd of the season for the Wildcats, who lead in the Pac-12 by a wide margin (9-1). They will also face an in-state rival next time out, Arizona State.
This is the first of two scheduled meetings between these teams, with the other slated for March 5. Recently, Arizona has been dominant against Oregon State, with wins in five straight meetings. The Wildcats also hold a commanding edge in the all-time series (56-20).
Roberto Nelson sank a layup with 20 seconds to play, which forced overtime against Arizona State for the Beavers. However, Oregon State had trouble stopping the Sun Devils in the extra period, allowing their foes to sink 6- of-9 from the floor, including a 3-of-3 showing from beyond the arc.
Nelson (21.9 ppg, 3.6 apg) is the best scorer in the Pac-12, leading the next best scorer (Washington's C.J. Wilcox) by more than three points per game. He finished with a game-high 26 points to go with four assists in the loss to Arizona State. Devon Collier (14.2 ppg, 6.4 rpg) and Angus Brandt (12.6 ppg) are the two other members of the team averaging in double figures. Each scored 13 points against the Sun Devils. Thanks primarily to Nelson, the Beavers are fourth in the Pac-12 in scoring (77.3 ppg), while shooting at the third-best percentage from the floor in the conference (.487).
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson posted a double-double consisting of 14 points and 10 rebounds as Arizona held off Oregon. The Wildcats outscored the Ducks 32-24 in the paint and forced 12 turnovers, while committing only seven themselves.
Where Arizona has been most effective this season is on defense and on the glass. The Wildcats lead the Pac-12 in rebounding (38.8 rpg), while ranking among the top-10 teams in the country in scoring defense (57.2 ppg), assists allowed (9.3 apg) and opponent field goal percentage (.378). Nick Johnson (16.2 ppg) has proven to be one of the best players in the conference as the team's leader. Johnson was at it again against Oregon, scoring a team-high 18 points to go with five assists, although he missed all five of his shots from the floor. Aaron Gordon (11.5 ppg, 8.1 rpg) had more trouble, finishing with just six points while hitting only 2-of-11 attempts at the free-throw line. Hollis-Jefferson (8.2 ppg, 5.6 rpg) will need to keep performing well, as he is taking over for Brandon Ashley (11.5 ppg), who was lost for the season earlier in the week after undergoing surgery on his right foot.
Even without Ashley, the Wildcats are a tenacious defensive group, who will give Nelson fits and force the rest of the Beavers to beat them, a task the Beavers are not up for.
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