As I clamored up the stairwell with the players before tip off, Joe Burton, with a newly shaved head, told me “Coach said we have to play hard, stay focused. Stick together. Stick to the game plan.”
For most of the first half, that's exactly what they did. The Beavers went blow for blow with the Wildcats for the first fifteen minutes. Then, it began to slip away. And an eight point deficit going into the half doubled with ten minutes left in the game.
“Our defense was the reason why we were able to pull away from Oregon State. Once we got stops, our offense was a lot easier for us. Once we got them off guard, we were able to set up our offense and execute and make them not play their game,” Arizona forward Grant Jerrett said outside the lockers.
For perspective, the Beavers put up a tough, at time resilient fight against a top five team. Ahmad Starks had 18 points, Joe Burton adding 15 and 8 rebounds, and Devon Collier marked his second double-double (13, 13) of the season. Roberto Nelson played with an emotional fervor that served him well, as we saw flashes of a solid inside out game towards the end.
But it wasn't enough. The Beavers lost 70-80
The defense let the Cats get away with too many easy shots, making ten from beyond the arc. And OSU was out rebounded by 40-32. Arizona's lead scorer Mark Lyons , who walked away with 16 points and 5 rebounds had this to say about turning the tables, "We were trying to speed them up and trying to make them make plays that they didn’t want to make and that helped us out.”
The Beavers are now 0-3 in the league for the first time in five seasons. And the Wildcats, with support from the Rose City Cats up in the corner, may have reclaimed a little mojo.
Here are some plays that drove the game
Burton scored the Beavers' first bucket. 2-2 early.
The Cats played Starks for a 3-ball and he drove to the cup for a layup.
Roberto was aggressive, taking the ball to the hole. He got fouled twice and made all four free throws. 13-10 Arizona.
Roberto drives to the bucket once again and is fouled once again.
Ahmad dribbles the ball straight up the floor and unguarded to nail a triple and get within a point of the Wildcats, 17-16
Ahmad Starks bangs another triple to cut the Arizona lead to 24-23. Starks with 10 points already.
Arizona goes on a 15-4 run in the first half up to 15:57 in the game.
Joe Burton made a fadeaway jumper to stop the 6-0 run and cut the lead to 49-39. 15:11 to play.
Joe Burton was working hard all night to get those rebounds
Burton tossed one to the corner to Olaf who nails a 3-pointer. 60-48. 11:47 to play
Burton set up a nice pick for Starks to hit a 3
Senior guard Kevin Parrom and freshman forward Grant Jerrett hit back-to-back 3-pointers that gave in the 10 minute mark to make the lead 60-46.
Arizona knocked down another 3-pointer, their 10th of the game, to take a 67-50 lead with 9:41 to play.
Arizona had its largest lead of 17-points at the 9-minute mark. From there, Oregon State was not able to pull within single digits of Arizona.
Burton made a reverse layup and Jarmal got a steal. Beavs trail 70-59 with 6:38 on the clock.
Roberto nailed a 3-pointer to cut the lead to 70-57 with 7:15 to play. It's now or never to make a run in this game.
Then the Cats went on a shooting spree. Game over