TUCSON, Ariz. — Oregon State rallied in the second half of its previous game behind Roberto Nelson.With their leading scorer unable to shake Arizona’s defenders, though, the Beavers had little chance of a repeat performance.
Oregon State dug itself a double-digit hole by halftime and Nelson struggled against No. 2 Arizona’s pressure all night, sending the Beavers to a 76-54 loss on Sunday.
“It’s disappointing that we didn’t play better, especially since we have been playing better,” Oregon State coach Craig Robinson said. “I don’t think we came out with our best effort and I want to take the blame for that.”
Arizona looked hesitant against Oregon on Thursday night, its first game since forward Brandon Ashley went out for the season with a right foot injury.
The Wildcats (23-1, 10-1 Pac-12) had no such trouble against Oregon State, finding answers for their shooting woes while dominating in nearly every aspect.
Arizona shot 50 percent for the first time in six games, had a 40-12 advantage in the paint and 15 assists with eight turnovers. The Wildcats also outrebounded the Beavers 39-24, including a 15-4 advantage on the offensive glass that led to 13 points.
Aaron Gordon led Arizona with 17 points and fellow freshman Rondae Hollis-Jefferson provided his usual hustling spark while scoring 16.
T.J. McConnell added 11 points, six rebounds and six assists for the Wildcats, who bounced back from their grinding victory over the Ducks with an excellent all-around effort for their 30th win in the last 31 games against the Beavers at McKale Center.
“We played well tonight,” McConnell said. “We were clicking on offense and I felt like we were playing well on defense.”
They sure were, particularly against Nelson.
The Beavers (13-10, 5-6) came back against Arizona State on Thursday behind Nelson, but had little chance against the athletic Wildcats, unable to spring him or chip away at Arizona’s 10-point halftime lead.
The nation’s 10th-leading scorer, Nelson was held to 10 points — 12 below his average — on 3-of-12 shooting. The rest of the Beavers did little to pick up the slack, shooting 8 of 24 in the second half and 39 percent overall to get swept on their desert road trip.
“There are always positives to take away from weekends like this,” said Angus Brandt, who led the Beavers with 14 points. “We are going to go to the film room and figure out what we did wrong and take it into practice next week.”
Shooting has been Arizona’s problem in recent weeks.
The Wildcats shot 37 percent over the past four games and hit 18 of 70 (25 percent) from 3-point range.
Arizona won four of those five games behind its defense, particularly with big stops late.
The Wildcats did it against Oregon in their last game as they struggled offensively without Ashley, shutting down the Ducks in the final 3 minutes to win 67-65 on Thursday after trailing most of the second half.
Arizona had some shooting woes early against Oregon State, but rallied and closed the first half on a 12-3 run to lead 37-27.
The Wildcats hit 16 of 29 shots in the first half and kept knocking them down in the second, stretching the lead while showcasing what they can do even without Ashley in the lineup.
“Today, we couldn’t stop them,” Robinson said. “This is a good team. It’s fun to watch when you aren’t getting beat by them.”
Oregon State rallied behind Nelson against Arizona State on Thursday night before losing in overtime.
The Beavers had no comeback in them this time, and Nelson struggled all night
He scored 24 of his 26 points in the second half against Arizona State, but had a hard time finding room to shoot against Arizona.
Hounded by Johnson and McConnell, who got plenty of help on screen switches, Nelson had four points on 2-of-8 shooting in the first half.
He continued to labor against Arizona’s pressure, going more than 10 minutes of the second half before getting off his first shot attempt. He missed all three of his 3-point tries in the game.
“It was a team effort on Nelson and we did a great job on him,” McConnell said.
And just about everyone else.