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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Taking steps backward

Alan Walsh / Arizona Daily Wildcat
Alan Walsh
Alan Walsh / Arizona Daily Wildcat

For the first time in 27 years, the Oregon State Beavers walked out of McKale Center as victors, leaving Arizona’s 25-game NCAA tournament streak in limbo.

The Beavers, with their slow-it-down, grind-it-out style of play, controlled the game with a suffocating zone defense while completing their first season sweep of the Wildcats since 1983 in a 63-55 victory on Saturday night.

It would seem that Arizona (13-12, 7-6 Pacific 10 Conference) would have come out with an extra incentive after losing to the Beavers (11-13, 5-7) on a heartbreaking last-second shot in Corvallis, Ore., on Jan. 13, but the Wildcats for the most part showed no sense of urgency.

After the game, Arizona head coach Sean Miller’s disappointment was heard in his voice as he addressed the media.

“”Your job as a coach and as a staff is to really connect with your team,”” Miller said. “”We had a couple players, honestly, that gave a poor effort, and that’s what we have to address this week as we move forward.””

Saturday’s loss was the most disappointing of the season for the Wildcats — even more disappointing than the 30-point loss to BYU at home on Dec. 28, 2009 — considering the strides that appeared to be made over the past couple of weeks. Arizona took a giant step backward, and it is evident the only way for the Wildcats to extend the NCAA tournament streak will be to win the Pac-10 tournament in March.

When Miller was asked about the NCAA tournament chances, he did not seem interested in even thinking about postseason play.

“”I’ve tried to stay away from it,”” he said. “”I don’t look at our team as being able to handle that.””

One major problem for the Wildcats was point guard Nic Wise’s struggles, along with the other Wildcats’ inability to carry the load. Wise, who has been in a slump the last four games, shot 1-of-11 from the field and 1-of-8 from the 3-point line, finishing the game with just five points.

“”It’s our job to come in here and be his counterparts and help him get where he needs to get,”” said freshman guard Momo Jones. “”In a good game like this where he couldn’t find his stroke and didn’t necessarily play a good game, we all didn’t play a good game.””

The Wildcats struggled to shoot the ball, going 4-of-23 from the three-point line, and were unable to get the ball to the inside. Freshman Derrick Williams had 13 points on 4-of-6 shooting, while his teammates weren’t able to get enough looks against the stringent Beavers’ zone defense. Arizona’s inability to knock down the long ball allowed the Beavers to flourish in their style of play.

“”We lost to a team that did a great job, full credit to them,”” Miller said. “”I don’t think I’ve ever been more disappointed at being a part of a team as I am right now.””

At halftime, it was clear that Oregon State had dictated how the game was played. OSU senior guard Josh Tarver laid the ball in at the buzzer to give the Beavers a 26-20 lead at halftime.

In the second half, the Beavers came out right where they left off and extended their lead to a game-high 10 points with 16:42 remaining on a 3-pointer by junior guard Lathen Wallace.

The Wildcats eventually stormed back with a 3-pointer from the right wing from sophomore Kyle Fogg and a lay-up from freshman Kevin Parrom to make it 37-37 with 10:07 remaining. At that point in the game, Arizona looked like a different team than it had been the entire game. With the home crowd behind them, the momentum seemed to have shifted.

“”When we made our run in the second half, it seemed like we had really turned it up,”” Miller said. “”To me, we were playing like you should play the whole game.””

Shortly after tying the game, the Wildcats’ defense allowed OSU to convert back door cut after back door cut and, at one point, gave the Beavers three-and-ones twice in a row. Though the Wildcats had gotten back in the game, the defensive lapses prevented a late-game comeback.

“”It was tough because we couldn’t put it together when we needed to on the defensive end,”” Parrom said. “”We got back-doored a couple times; they just wanted it more than us.””

One positive aspect of the game was forward Jamelle Horne, who finally played the way Miller hoped he would all season. The junior had 15 points and 14 rebounds to lead the way for the Wildcats.

“”He had one of the best games he’s had since I’ve been here,”” Miller said. “”It was great to see him breakout, like I told (him) after the game, I hope this is sign of things to come.””

Arizona is now tied for fourth in the Pac-10 and has a week to prepare for ASU, which comes to McKale Center on Sunday.

“”We have a full week to get back on the saddle,”” Miller said. “”We didn’t get the job done (Saturday) so hopefully eight days from now we can do a better job.””

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