Arizona expected to see a long, athletic team in the Pac-12 tournament semifinals.
The Wildcats will get a long, athletic team in the Pac-12 tournament semifinals.
It will be Oregon State, not Washington, which is a relief inasmuch as the Huskies were the top seed in the event and swept UA in the regular season.
It’s human nature to think that the door is open wider for the Wildcats to walk through to the title game, but the Beavers are no bargain and UA coach Sean Miller isn’t buying that kind of thinking anyway.
Oregon State has won four in a row, including a 14-point win over Colorado to end the regular season and the 86-84 elimination of the Huskies on Thursday.
“Well, I don’t think they did us a favor by beating Washington,” Miller said in a press conference after Arizona defeated UCLA 66-58 on Thursday.
“Oregon State is very talented. Jared Cunningham could have been the player of the year in our conference. They have great length at the forward spots.”
That they do.
Oregon State’s front line goes 6-10 forward Eric Moreland, 6-8 forward Devon Collier and 6-10 center Angus Brandt. Burly Joe Burton (6-7, 280) — who has been ejected from the game in the past two meetings against Arizona — comes off the bench.
That’s great size and length.
That’s nothing new for Arizona, which has been trying all season to make sure its size disparity doesn’t turn into a disadvantage. The Wildcats were successful in that effort vs. UCLA, with 6-7 Jesse Perry and 6-6 Solomon Hill running circles around the Bruins’ big men.
Not only did Perry, Hill and friends battle to keep UCLA off the offensive glass — the Bruins had a scant seven second-chance points — but they used superior quickness on offense to put UCLA in foul trouble and get to the line.
Hill and Perry — who each had 12 rebounds — were a combined 24 of 27 from the free throw line.
It will be the same kind of matchup vs. Oregon State.
“The way they rebound is a big thing,” Hill said in Thursday’s postgame press conference.
“I think they rebound more effectively than UCLA. And those guys are long. You’ve got to go out there and shot fake a couple times, get them in the air and try to get them in foul trouble as much as we can.”
Oregon State, which is 19-13 overall, was a disappointing 7-11 in conference play, although six of those league losses were by five points or less, or in overtime.
That includes an 81-73 loss at Arizona on Jan. 12. Oregon State’s waterbug point guard Ahmad Starks, who poured in 10 points in the final 3:16 of regulation, missed a 3-pointer in the final seconds of the second half that would have won the game.
And, of course, there was the skirmish late in overtime between Kyle Fogg and Cunningham, with Burton and Arizona’s Kyryl Natyazhko ejected for leaving the bench area.
Speaking of Cunningham, he is as athletic as those Washington wings that gave the Cats so much trouble this season. The junior had 22 points vs. UA on Jan. 12 and has averaged 17 points in six games against the Cats (with some monster dunks mixed in).
Cunningham had 18 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists as Oregon State upset Washington.
“It’s going to be a war,” Miller said. “If we had played Washington, the same thing.”