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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Analysis column: Oregon State shocks Arizona, could force Wildcats to change

Justin Quinn

Arizona guards Elliot Pitts (24) and TJ McConnel (4) trudge off the court after a close 58-56 loss to OSU at Gill Coliseum in Corvallis, Ore.

Sunday was upset day in college basketball, but going into Arizona men’s basketball’s game at Oregon State, you would’ve had to be Gary Payton to pick the Beavers over the Wildcats.

The No. 7 Wildcats (14-2, 2-1 Pac-12 Conference) became the third top-10 team to fall on Sunday with their 58-56 loss to Oregon State. No. 2 Duke and No. 4 Wisconsin also lost to unranked teams.

While the Beavers are 10-0 at home, they lost 71-59 to Oregon, a side that the Wildcats easily beat, 80-62, on Thursday. The Beavers needed overtime to best Portland and lost to Quinnipiac, whoever that is.

Oregon State’s RPI was 125 going into the game, and this is head coach Wayne Tinkle’s first year at the helm in Corvallis, Ore.

Plus, history was on the Wildcats’ side; they had won seven in a row against OSU. Before Sunday, UA coach Sean Miller was 7-3 against the Beavers, and Arizona led the all-time series 58-20, 22-14 in Corvallis.

So, when famous Oregon State homer Payton predicted a Beaver victory on Fox Sports 1, it sounded pretty ridiculous.

However, current OSU guard Gary Payton II channeled his father — who was national player of the year when he was at Oregon State — and played more like “the glove” than “the mitten.”

Payton II carried the Beavers for much of the game, leading the team in scoring, rebounding and assists until the very end. Payton II scored 10 points to go along with a team-high nine rebounds and a team-high three assists.

With Payton in the house and former UA star Sean Elliott announcing for Fox Sports 1, one couldn’t help but think about the battles those two had in the 1980s — when Oregon State was at Arizona’s level.

The loss spoiled Arizona’s chances to achieve the rare sweep of the Oregon Trail road trip, something it hasn’t done since 2008-09. After the Wildcats beat Oregon handily, this was supposed to be a cake walk: The Ducks had been the tough leg of the road trip for years.

While they held Oregon State to 58 points — including 20 in the first half — Arizona lost because it only managed 56 points. The Wildcats were not much more accurate than Peyton Manning in the playoffs, shooting 38 percent for the game and 26.1 percent in the first half.

With the Mountain schools coming to town this week, the Wildcats need to fix it and fast. But there’s still one glaring hole for the UA: Arizona’s hyped frontcourt has been disappointing on offense this season.

Center Kaleb Tarczewski was averaging 8.9 points per game before Sunday, and power forward Brandon Ashley hasn’t scored more than 13 points since the UA beat up on lowly Oakland.

On Sunday, Tarczewski scored four points and had zero rebounds, and Ashley had five points and three rebounds. Miller gave up on the duo, benching Tarczewski with over eight minutes left and taking out Ashley for the last minute.

One of those guys probably could’ve at least got a rebound on the Wildcats’ last possession, or even — gasp — posted someone up and tied the game. Instead, the UA looked like a mess on the last possession.

Very few teams have the size that Arizona has in two 7-footers and the 6-foot-9 Ashley. How about the Wildcats actually take advantage of it?

The original Gary Payton, “The Glove,” was known for two things when he was a superstar in the NBA: his lockdown defense and his brash and unapologetic behavior. The Wildcats regained their defensive swagger, but they need more Payton in them on offense and need to begin to force the ball through the basket with their big men.

Arizona would do well to get Tarczewski and Ashley more involved. If wings Stanley Johnson and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson continue to start together, that should free up the power forward and center to score double-digit points.

In a time when basketball teams are going smaller and smaller, Miller and the Wildcats would do well to reverse that trend and feed their big men. Because in the end, you can’t teach size. And the Wildcats have plenty of it.


Follow James Kelley on Twitter.

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