Corvallis, OR – No. 24-ranked Arizona and Oregon State were looking to get back on track with a win Sunday night at Gill Coliseum after tough losses a few days prior. The Beavers took control midway through the second half with five players scoring in double figures to roll to a stunning 82-65 victory over the Wildcats. It was the first win for Oregon State against a ranked opponent since 2016.
In the first half, both teams went on mini-runs as leads exchanged several times with the teams heading to the locker room dead locked at 31. Zeke Nnaji, the 6-11 power forward from Arizona was a force throughout most the game. Oregon State didn’t seem to have answer for the big. He went 8-for-14 from the field scoring 21 points (5-for-5 FT) and grabbed nine rebounds. In the past five games, the future NBA draftee is averaging 17.8 points and 11.8 rebounds while shooting 58 percent from the floor.
Oregon State’s zone defense caused lots of trouble and inconsistencies on the offensive end for the Wildcats. As a team, Arizona shot 29 percent from the 3-point line on 5-for-17 shooting. Guards Nico Mannion and Josh Green were ineffective offensively throughout most of the contest. The two potential first round picks combined to shoot just 6-for-20 to each score nine points. Mannion did have a game high nine assists.
The game was close with leads exchanging multiple times, but after Nnaji hit two free throws at the 12:05 mark in the second half, it was all Oregon State the rest of the way. They ended the game outscoring the Wildcats 33-16 in the final 12 minutes. The Beavers were led by their two senior stars, Tres Tinkle and Ethan Thompson. Tinkle played well from the start as he got the Beavers going by hitting a 3-pointer from the corner in the opening minute of the game. He filled up the stat sheet by recording 20 points (6-of-13 FG), seven assists, six rebounds and three steals.
The Beavers Thompson, a 6-5 point guard, outplayed Mannion. The savvy ball handler seemed to be in complete control throughout the night running the offense. He setup his teammates often by using a smooth crossover to get past his defender into the paint before distributing the ball to an open shooter. In addition, Thompson was very efficient scoring by going 5-of-8 to finish with 18 points and eight assists to only two turnovers. Thompson is another player who has stepped up his game in recent weeks. Over the past five games, he has averaged 20.4 points, 6.6 assists, and 5.0 rebounds.
On the night, the Beavers starting lineup shot 56 percent from the field with all starters scoring in double figures. 7-0 senior Kylor Kelley pitched in 13 points and six rebounds. Alfred Hollins added 12 points and Zach Reichle ended the night with 11 points.
Oregon State (12-4, 2-2) will go on the road to battle Washington (11-6, 1-3) in Seattle on January 16th. Arizona (10-6, 1-2) returns home to take on Utah (10-5, 1-2).
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