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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona grabs revenge against Oregon State behind T.J. McConnell’s all-around performance

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Tyler Baker
Tyler Baker/The Daily Wildcat



Friday’s matchup between No. 6 Arizona and Oregon State was
much more than a normal Pac-12 conference game. It was a chance for the
Wildcats to make a statement in a revenge type game, and they didn’t disappoint.

What started out back and forth for the first half of the
first half turned into a 57-34 victory for Arizona (20-2, 8-1) in McKale
Center. Defense and timely offense headlined a slow-paced game very different
from Arizona’s high-scoring affair with Oregon just a few days ago.

Oregon State’s 34 points is the lowest points Arizona has allowed
on the season and the second-lowest during Arizona coach Sean Miller’s tenure
at Arizona, behind only last season’s 25 points allowed against Washington
State.

As Miller put it, OSU’s matchup zone and deliberately slow
pace were reasons why the Wildcats didn’t put up more points, but said he’s
still comfortable with their performance and their preparation for future zone
teams.

“It gives you a sense of comfort that you have played 80
minutes — maybe 120 by the time we get to Las Vegas — of a zone that is aggressive,
disciplined and good,” Miller said. “But not many teams are going to be that
deliberate that are going to be in the tournament.”

For a game that was uglier than most, Miller and the
Wildcats reiterated the point that this team played consistent defense despite
each possession lasting well into the shot clock.

“When you choose to hold the ball, like they did, and be that
deliberate, the disciplined defensive team really can have a way of making it
hard to score and I thought that’s really what happened,” Miller said.

The Wildcats held the Beavers to 28.6 percent from the
field, 20 percent from 3-point territory and 60 percent from the free-throw
line. According to Oregon State athletics, the team’s 34 points were the lowest
single-game point total since a February matchup in 2007 with UCLA when the
Beavers scored 35 points.

Leading the offensive charge for the Wildcats was guard T.J.
McConnell. The fifth year senior stuffed the stat sheet with seven points, six
assists, four rebounds and a UA season-high eight steals in 30 minutes of
action.

After the game McConnell said he’s not concerned with his
stats as long as the team comes out on the winning side of the scoreboard.

“It’s not a bad day at the office but we won, and that’s all
I care about.” McConnell said.

Aiding McConnell was a balanced scoring attack headlined by
Brandon Ashley with a team-high 12 points, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson with 11
points and Stanley Johnson with eight points.

It may not seem like a lot of points, but the 44 combined
points for the Arizona starters was 10 more points than the entire Oregon State
team combined. Arizona’s bench scored 13 points, which was over one third of
OSU’s total points.

However, talk shifted in the post-game press conference to
whether or not McConnell was a frontrunner for Pac-12 Player of the year. When
asked about it, Miller quickly responded, “Yes.” before elaborating further.

“Last season and this season, you can make the argument that
no player that we’ve recruited in our seven or eight recruiting classes has
been more impactful toward winning than T.J. McConnell,” Miller said. “He does
it in all facets of the game, he does it every day and he’s the only guy that
nobody talks about playing in the NBA … I know he can.”

Oregon State coach Wayne Tinkle reiterated much of the same sentiment
when asked a similar question.

“McConnell is my player of the year. He is everything to
this team,” Tinkle said.

As the clock ran down and Miller substituted McConnell out
of the game for the final time, McKale Center erupted as if to say, “We think
so too.”

_______________

Follow Roberto Payne on Twitter.

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