Arizona did something it couldn’t do on Saturday against Colorado and had no chance to do against Utah a week ago – Close out a game.
On Thursday night, Arizona did that and more in its 14th win of the season in beating visiting Oregon State 70-61 in McKale Center. The win made it a sweep over the Beavers this season. . UA is now 8-6 in the Pac-12. It faces Oregon on Saturday at noon.
Up just 58-54 with about five minutes left, Arizona put distance between the Beavers and itself to pick up win No. 14, breaking a two-game losing streak.
It looked a little shaky on a couple of possessions there, UA coach Sean Miller said, not being in the right place and not attacking Oregon State’s 1-3-1 zone, but once Arizona got through that small stretch, UA took control.
Bennedict Mathurin hit a jumper and later hit a 3-pointer and Christian Koloko had a late-closing dunk to all but slam the door on any OSU attempt at a comeback.
“It was good to see us handle that,” Miller said.
And, well, a win is a win for Arizona as it attempts to finish out the season on a high note with just three or so weekends left in the season. Arizona received solid play from everyone, as Mathurin had 14 points and James Akinjo also had 14 points to lead UA.
It was also a night UA didn’t have senior Ira Lee because he suffered an ankle injury on Wednesday. And a night when Miller changed the starting lineup by switching Terrell Brown with Kerr Kriisa. Mathurin returned to the starting lineup after a one-game absence, replacing Dalen Terry.
Miller did it for no other reason than to improve the team’s defense with Kriisa’s energy.
“That’s not to the detriment of Terrell, but every once and a while – when you have a team like ours – to take shake up the lineup it keeps everybody on their toes,” Miller said. “And it backs up me and our staff in trying to become a more united and all together better defensive group.”
In the end, Brown played 29 minutes and Kerr had 20 with both having an impact.
“I’m glad we have Kerr, but I thought Terrell did a really good job,” Miller said.
Miller said his team was like “a puzzle” and he’s trying to keep its energy up and trying to keep it hungry and playing hard.
“Maybe (to) play our best in the month of February,” he said. “That’s our task. We’re trying everything to get there.”