The 7th place 7-8 Arizona Wildcats travel to Corvalis to play the 3rd place 9-5 Oregon State Beavers. The Wildcats recently ended their 7 game losing streak with two home wins against Cal and Stanford while the Beavers are coming off a road split against the Los Angeles schools.
Players to watch for Oregon State:
#3 Tres Tinkle 6’8″ F (Jr.) 19.8 points per game, 8.2 rebounds, 4.2 assists
#1 Stephen Thompson 6’4″ G (Sr.) 16.4 ppg, 4.5 rebs, 34% 3-point
#5 Ethan Thompson 6’5″ G (So.) 13.2 ppg, 4.9 rebs, 35% 3-point
Players to watch for Arizona:
#2 Brandon Williams 6’2″ G (Fr.) 11.7 ppg, 3.6 assist
#4 Chase Jeter 6’10” C (Jr.) 11.7 ppg, 6.9 rebs
#11 Ira Lee 6’7″ F (So.) 6.5ppg, 4.2 rebs
The Beavers are led by the alliterative Big 3: Tinkle & The Thompson Twins. Ok, they’re not twins but they are Thompsons. In Pac-12 play the alliterative Big 3 accounts for 70% of Oregon State’s points and the team is averaging 74 points per game in conference. The Beavers will go 8 or 9 deep but, offensively, the focus has been getting the ball in the hands of one of the alliterative Big 3.
Oregon St. is 32nd in the NCAA in 2-point field goal percentage at 55%. In conference they are ranked 1st with a 57% 2-point field goal percentage. They are not a great 3-point shooting team and average 32% for the year. Tinkle is 2nd in league play averaging 19.8 points per game and scorched the Cats in Tucson earlier this year with 25 points and 10 rebounds on 50% shooting. He is also in the top 10 in the Pac-12 in just about every major statistical category.
Arizona is averaging 70.5 points per game in conference play and has recently seen an uptick in energy and play with the return of Freshman guard Brandon Williams. They are still one of the worst shooting teams in the Pac-12 at 41% but seem to have been rejuvenated by the return of Williams who–in the game against Oregon St. earlier this year–had 20 points. 6’9″ Senior forward Ryan Luther in that game provided 16 points and 11 rebounds as the Cats made 13 of 27 3-pointers that helped secure the 11-point win.
Ira Lee is coming off his best game as a Wildcat. Against Stanford he had 16 points and 5 rebounds off the bench. He provides instant energy and effects the game in ways that don’t show up in the stats. The Cats offense looks much much better when Lee plays well. Over his last 6 games he is shooting 76% mainly in the paint but has stepped out and hit a few 16-17 footers here and there.
Oregon State has mainly used a 1-3-1 zone defense this season. They are giving up 72 points per game in conference and are 6th in the NCAA in defensive rebounds by opponents, which may have something to do with shooting such a high percentage from inside the arc–there simply aren’t as many rebounds available to be had.
7-foot Kylor Kelley for the Beavers has 26 more blocks by himself on the season than Arizona does as a team.
The Cats are allowing 70 points per game but over their last 3 games have given up only 57 points on average. They rely heavily on their man-to-man defense and Coach Miller has recently implemented a zone for a possession or two here and there in recent games.
Both of these teams generally take care of the ball pretty well and haven’t been turning the ball over a lot. The 1-3-1 zone of OSU will mean a lot of 3-point shots for the Cats if they want them. With a player like Kelley in the middle for the Beavers the Cats will have to decide if they want to avoid him or take it right to him as they should be able to penetrate the zone.
Oregon St. has quietly slipped into 3rd place in the conference and a win tonight with an Arizona State loss would move then into 2nd. As of now it seems Washington is the only team guaranteed to make the NCAA tournament even without winning the conference tournament. With Brandon Williams back in the mix and Arizona getting some good bench production they have a good chance at making an end of the season run here. They will look to go through the Oregon schools and then wrap up the season at home…against Arizona State.