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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    ‘Cats not looking past Beavers

    No. 10 Oregon State vs. No. 7 Arizona

    From a purely basketball standpoint, the Arizona men’s basketball team has every reason to look past Oregon State in its first round Pacific 10 Conference Tournament game tonight at 8:30 in the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

    The Beavers (6-24, 0-18 Pac-10) became the first team ever to not win a single Pac-10 game, having lost 20 games in a row overall and sporting the nation’s No. 264 Ratings Percentage Index.

    It will be hard for the players to forget how easily the Wildcats (18-13, 8-10) dispatched Oregon State, 81-45, Thursday in Corvallis, Ore.

    “”We just can’t overlook them,”” said UA forward Chase Budinger. “”They’re a team that has nothing to lose. This is their last chance to get a Pac-10 win, and we just can’t let us be that one team. We’ve got to come out with the same intensity and fire that we did last time we played them and just try to beat them early.””

    UA interim head coach Kevin O’Neill does not expect his team to look past Oregon State because he knows his players understand what’s at stake in this matchup between the No. 7 seed Wildcats and No. 10 seed Beavers.

    O’Neill said starting with last week’s meeting in Corvallis, Ore., his squad has been playing sudden death basketball as far as an NCAA Tournament bid is concerned.

    Budinger has taken that thinking to heart, saying bluntly, “”If we don’t win our next game we’re not going to make the Tournament, so we definitely have to just focus on Oregon State right now because if we don’t, we’re not going to the Dance.””

    That kind of mindset makes it easier not to overlook last-place OSU, as he would likely be right. It would be hard for Arizona to overcome an 8-10 conference record, a 3-8 stretch to end the year and a season-finale loss to the lowly Beavers.

    By nearly all important statistical measures, Oregon State ranks far below the rest of the conference, finishing six games behind ninth-place California, which nearly won at No. 2 UCLA last week.

    In conference play, the Beavers rank last in scoring margin (-19.6 points per game), scoring offense (57.6 ppg), field-goal percentage (35.7 percent), defensive field-goal percentage (49.6 percent), 3-point field-goal percentage (28.5 percent) and defensive 3-point field-goal percentage (38.9 percent) and rank next to last in scoring defense (77.2 ppg).

    No Beaver ranks in the top 20 in scoring or rebounding in league play, as the leading scorer goes for 8.8 points per game and rebounder gets 4.6 boards per contest. Nobody’s in the top 10 in any other category except steals, where Josh Tarver ranks 10th.

    But none of that matters to O’Neill, who sees OSU as a team that trailed Oregon and ASU – teams that swept the Wildcats – by three late the past two weeks.

    “”We’re going to have to play a heck of a game,”” O’Neill said. “”I think we played a heck of a game up there last week, but we’re going to have to play a heck of a game to win because they’re not a horrible basketball team. We played at a very hard level (last week) and got that kind of win.””

    That kind of win, a 36-point shellacking, is the kind of victory that no doubt gives college players confidence, making it the kind of mindset Budinger said would hurt his squad more than help it mentally.

    “”Players might start overlooking them and start underestimating how good a team they can be, and we just can’t do that,”” he said. “”We’ve got to think that they’re a team that they could really just go off, and we can’t let that happen.””

    O’Neill said he would approach the OSU game like his squad does not have another contest the rest of the week in terms of not resting key players until the game’s well in hand. Then if the team wins, he plans to approach tommorrow’s contest against No. 2 seed Stanford as if the rest of the Pac-10 Tournament were cancelled, as those two wins should get the Wildcats in without question.

    “”You wouldn’t think coming to a program like this it would be like that,”” said UA guard Jawann McClellan of Arizona’s bubble status, “”but this whole season has been up and down.””

    If the Wildcats are upset by the Beavers, the season will be remembered much more for the downs than any of the ups, so O’Neill is making sure his team does not look past the league’s cellar dwellers.

    “”We know Oregon State will play a lot better than they did last time,”” O’Neill said. “”Anything can happen on a neutral floor in an NBA arena, so we’re going to have to play a good game to have a chance to win.””


    Breakdown
    Tale of the Tape:
    No. 10 Oregon State vs. No. 7 Arizona

    Guards

    Advantage: Arizona

    Wise and Bayless shredded the Beavers last week and shared the rock enough to help four Wildcats reach double figures – and they should be better now that Wise has had a week to get acclimated after his surgery.

    Forwards/Center

    Advantage: Arizona

    Jordan Hill faced no resistance inside last week when racking up 16 points on 8-for-9 shooting to go with nine rebounds in 25 minutes. No Beaver has the physical tools to match him.

    Intangibles

    Advantage: Arizona

    The Beavers are playing for the pride of earning a Pac-10 win after not recording one all regular season. That’s nice, but it doesn’t come close to comparing to the Wildcats playing a game that will likely decide their NCAA Tournament fate.

    Prediction

    The law of averages says the Wildcats will play worse and the Beavers better than the last meeting, but that’s not saying much since Arizona looked like a team that could make an NCAA Tournament run and Oregon State resembled a Big Sky squad last Thursday. With their season on the line, the Wildcats won’t blow it and may even be able to get some of their key guys a little bit of rest.

    Arizona 75, Oregon State 58

    – compiled by Michael Schwartz


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