It almost happened again. Arizona was within a single bucket with less than a minute remaining on the clock, but this time it was not to be for the undefeated Wildcats. Oregon held on to win by four on Thursday, handing Arizona its first loss of the season.
Now, the Wildcats will try to recover with a weekend finale against Oregon State. The Beavers started the season strong, but have slowly been on a downward spiral since Christmas. They started off with nine wins in the first eleven games. One of those losses came against Kansas at home, but it was a game in which the Beavers played well.
Since then, Oregon State has lost three of four, all coming at home. One of those losses was to Towson, arguably one of the worst teams in the country a season ago. The Beavers are 0-2 in the Pac-12 and are desperately seeking a win to get back on track. That may be hard to do as Arizona has beaten them four consecutive times over the past two seasons.
Craig Robinson took over the Head Coach position at Oregon State in 2008. Through his first four seasons in Corvallis, he accumulated a 61-70 overall record with a 27-45 record in conference play. He also led his team to a CBI Championship in his first year.
The game against Arizona will also be much harder for Oregon State as they will be playing without one of their best players. Eric Moreland was suspended indefinitely on Thursday and will not play against the Wildcats. He was averaging ten points and eleven rebounds.
In addition, the Beavers have been playing without another one of their star players for a majority of the season. In the fourth game of the year, a 66-58 victory over Purdue, senior Angus Brandt was lost for the season with an ACL tear. In those early few games, he was scoring eleven points and grabbing eight rebounds.
With Moreland out of the starting rotation, junior forward Devon Collier stepped in. The 6-foot-8 forward was the leading scorer for Oregon State in the loss to Arizona State. It was his second game in the starting lineup on the year and he played great. Collier finished with eighteen points and eight rebounds while being aggressive around the basket.
He is joined in the front court by Jarmal Reid and Joe Burton. The former took over the spot in the starting lineup when Brandt went down with his injury and has started every game since. He is only a freshman, but has seen his share of playing time. Reid is getting nearly fifteen minutes of action a game, but hasn’t been very productive with it, averaging just 2.1 points and 1.3 rebounds.
Burton, on the other hand, is a very productive player for Oregon State. He is one of four players for the Beavers that will see game time on Saturday that is averaging double figures in the scoring column with 11.1 per night. He is also grabbing six rebounds a game. Burton poses a threat to Arizona because of his body, as he is 6-foot-7, but weighs 295-pounds. Depending on the matchup, he could give any one of the Wildcat freshmen a hard time.
Oregon State will combat the Arizona backcourt of Mark Lyons and Nick Johnson, with two juniors, Roberto Nelson and Ahmad Starks. Nelson is the team’s leading scorer and one of the best players on the team. He is a do-it-all point guard, as he has 43 assists on the season to complement his scoring average of sixteen. Nelson is also one of the best defenders on the team and should give Lyons a tough matchup.
Starks on the other hand is a pure shooter, making 37 of 82 three-point attempts this year. He doesn’t do much on the glass, but can play pretty good defense at times. With a streaky and turnover-prone Johnson to guard, Starks may be able to put his defensive skills to good use.
With the loss of Moreland, the Beavers will likely only go with a seven-man rotation, using Olaf Schaftenaar and Charlie Barton off the bench. Schaftenaar is a 6-foot-9 freshman from the Netherlands. His older brother Roeland Schaftenaar also played for the Beavers, graduating in 2010. Olaf is three inches shorter than his sibling, standing at a solid 6-foot-9. He hasn’t been scoring very much throughout the season though, scoring just over three points a game.
Barton is another player that sees considerable playing time, but doesn’t do much with it. The sophomore guard is barely scoring two points a game in his fifteen minutes of action. He is a decent passer, but only has 24 assists to 17 turnovers on the year.
The Wildcats will be looking to continue the dominance over the Beavers on Saturday night. Oregon State will be trying to get out of the tailspin that it is currently in. Arizona should be out for blood after losing the first game of the season on Thursday night and a depleted Oregon State squad may be exactly what it needs to bounce back.