No. 11 Arizona opens Pac-12 play at struggling Oregon State
No. 11 Arizona will get a second chance to start its Pac-12 season when it travels to play Oregon State on Sunday in Corvallis, Ore.
The Wildcats (6-0) were scheduled to play Thursday night at home against Washington, but the game was postponed due to COVID-19 protocols within the Huskies' program. Meanwhile, Oregon State (1-7, 0-1 Pac-12) did begin conference play Thursday night, dropping its seventh consecutive game with a 73-61 loss at Cal.
Arizona has its best ranking since Jan. 29, 2018, when it reached No. 9. The Wildcats began this season unranked but have been impressive on both ends of the court under new coach Tommy Lloyd.
"The guys are great and they seem to be on board with everything," Lloyd said. "They're doing a really good job taking coaching. When we tell them something is important and we have to work on this, they seem to understand it and make it a priority."
Arizona's offense has been a thing of beauty, with Lloyd letting the Wildcats play free and fast in ways that former coach Sean Miller didn't. The Wildcats -- who have a win over then-No. 4 Michigan -- love to push the pace and share the ball. They are first in the nation in assists (23.5 per game) and scoring margin (plus-33.8).
Arizona also leads the nation in field goal percentage defense, allowing opponents to shoot just 32.5 percent, which is a testament to on-ball aggressiveness and the shot-blocking Christian Koloko in the paint.
The Beavers are struggling offensively. Leading scorer Warith Alatishe (12.1 points per game) scored 21 in the loss to Cal, but the rest of the starters contributed just eight points.
Oregon State was without Rodrigue Andela, who suffered a broken bone in his left foot in practice earlier in the week. Andela, who started four games this season and is averaging 4.6 points and 2.9 rebounds, will be out eight to 12 weeks.
It's been a steep decline for Oregon State, which made a shocking run to the Elite Eight last season.
"We're not playing good enough, and everybody has to accept responsibility, from me to the rest of the staff to the players," coach Wayne Tinkle said. "We've got to step it up."
The Wildcats have a talent advantage down low, and the numbers say they will dominate Oregon State on the glass. They have a rebounding margin of plus-12.7 per game; Oregon State is at minus-3.9 per game on the boards after Cal had a 42-24 edge.
Arizona's top two scorers are post players. Power forward Azuolas Tubelis is shooting 62.7 percent and averaging 16.5 points. Koloko is at 16.2 points per game while shooting 69.2 percent and grabbing a team-high 7.5 rebounds per game, with 21 blocked shots. The duo also leads the Wildcats in free throw attempts, which speaks to how much trouble opponents have matching up inside.
"We have a great group of guys," Lloyd said. "A number of our players are putting effort first and that's a great step. When you put effort first and you follow it with intelligence and unselfishness, that's a heck of a combination."
--Field Level Media
Updated December 3, 2021