Arizona Basketball

Rivera: Three takes on an inconsistent Arizona Wildcats win

Will the real Arizona men’s basketball team please stand?

Well, at least raise your hand?

Thursday night it was yet another inconsistent effort, but one that could be applauded because Arizona won on the road, beating Oregon State 71-54 in Corvallis, Ore.

It was a get in, get out game and hopefully you leave with a victory. Arizona has now won 15 consecutive games and 21 overall.

Also, remember that a number of very good teams couldn’t do that over the years in Corvallis, most recently 2014-15 behind T.J. McConnell, Stanley Johnson and the rest.

So, a win is a win – even if it’s not impressive for the No. 5 team in the country. It clearly beats the alternative.

“On the road it isn’t easy and we didn’t expect it to be,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said on his postgame radio show. “We talked about that before this game started.”

Here are three observations from the game and what’s ahead:

Trier Gets to the Rim

Allonzo Trier is finding his groove. Perhaps he never really lost it in his 19-game absence. But what he’s never really lost is his ability to get to the basket. When I asked him about it last week he said he’s never lost that ability. And his roommate, Lauri Markannen, gave a look of ‘what kind of question is that because he’s tough as ever in getting to the basket.”

Trier, in his fourth game back, scored a team-high 18 points in a team-high 28 minutes. He attacked the basket as he usually does, hitting 6 of 11 shots. Expect more from Trier in the coming games. UA will need that attack-mode attitude in some of the bigger games.

Markkanen isn’t perfect

Finally, Markkanen proved he’s human. Through 20-plus games he looked like a player who wouldn’t have a poor game. He did on Thursday and Arizona survived. He went 1 for 6, finishing with just eight points. He hit a 3-pointer and went 5 for 5 from the free throw line. He didn’t let his offensive game get him down. He pulled down nine rebounds.

Expect him to recover just in time for Saturday’s showdown with Oregon.

Speaking of Oregon

Saturday afternoon is going to be must-watch TV. It’s the only meeting between the two schools this regular season given how the schedule plays out. Who knows the teams could play again in the Pac-12 tournament.

Fingers are crossed.

Saturday, it could be for the Pac-12 Conference title, depending how the rest of the season plays out.

“It is a big one and no different than when we were in LA,” Miller said. “Your team has to be at their very best. That’s our challenge. We will have to be at our best in order to win that game. It’s exciting and there’s a lot at stake. These are the games you want to be in as a player. It’s the challenge and it’s going to be a big test.”

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