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Beating Arizona: How Oregon State did it

The Beavers beat Arizona by two on January 11th. Here's what went down that night.

Olaf Schaftenaar stretched the Arizona defense.
Olaf Schaftenaar stretched the Arizona defense.
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

You probably know by now that Arizona has lost a grand total of three games by a grand total of nine points this season. The pessimistic take on that fact is fairly obvious; the optimistic one is that they are beatable. We've reached out to the SBN blogs that cover each of the teams that has knocked off Arizona this year to get a feel for how it happened and whether or not Xavier can replicate their efforts. First up is Oregon State.

Oregon State and Arizona played tight the who way, with neither team ever leading by more than four points in a game that featured 15 ties and 20 lead changes. Oregon State shot 13-17 from the line and was the beneficiary of a rough 18-27 performance from the stripe by Arizona. With 1:33 left, Malcolm Duvivier finished a three-point play to put OSU up 56-52. Arizona answered with a 4-0 run to tie it before Langston Morris-Walker scored the winning basket with 28 seconds left. A final shot at the other end for Arizona's TJ McConnell went begging and that was that.

SBN blog Building the Dam's Andy Wooldridge covers OSU basketball. He was gracious enough to answer some questions for us regarding the Beavers' win over Arizona.

Banners on the Parkway: Arizona is generally a great offensive rebounding team, but you kept them off the offensive boards almost entirely. Was it great individual efforts, or the product of a strategic decision?

Building the Dam: One of the keys was to make Arizona take outside shots, and with at least 3 players on the perimeter, so they can't crash the boards. There is a big difference between their having to truly rebound, vs. a lot of those offensive rebounds actually just being put-backs. You have to limit the put backs.

BotP: Gary Payton and Langston Morris-Walker combined to shoot 7-10 from inside the arc against a team that allows teams to shoot just 42% from two-point range on the year. How can Xavier's perimeter players find similar success?

BtD: A steal or two definitely helps. And you have to move away from the ball, work to get open looks, but also move on the perimeter, in order to again keep at least some of their players outside and spread out.

BotP: Defensively, your boys absolutely smothered a team that shoots pretty well (aside from sending them to the line 27 times). Was this a man or zone defense? Or was it just a really bad shooting night for the Wildcats?

BtD: Whether you use man or zone, the key is to force more outside shots, and fewer from point blank range. No one shoots as well from the outside.

BotP: Your 6'10" PF Olaf Schaftenaar was a cool 3-5 from behind the arc on the night. How big of a benefit was it to have a big man who could step out and wreck 'Zona's defense from deep? How hamstrung will Xavier be for lack of one?

BtD: It definitely either forces the opponent to spread their defense, which helps create some lanes, or concede some points, because not many guards can deal with a big outside shooter. If Xavier can't duplicate that, perhaps they can get some mid-range, 12-15 foot jumpers? 2 points is not as good as 3, but you have to find some "extra" points in places where Arizona's length isn't as big of a detriment.

BotP: KenPom has Xavier losing by 10. The line opened with Xavier as an 11-point underdog. From my angle, this looks like a really big mountain for X to climb. Give me some reason to hope our boys can get this win and take one step closer to our first Final Four.

BtD: It will be hard to find much hope, in my opinion, because Arizona is playing some of their best ball of the year lately. But if you can force the 'Cats to extend their defense, perhaps you can get someone out of position, and into foul trouble.

The other route to go is to defend the passing lanes when TJ McConnell has the ball, instead of just trying to defend him. He creates a tremendous amount of what Arizona does, and if you can take away a few passes, you may be able to take away a few easy baskets, and make it a game where every possession counts.

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Big thanks to Andy and Building the Dam for helping us out there. Here's what I took away from that: we need Trevon to be finding that short corner shot he likes and hitting it. We need Matt and Jalen to be able to score from the high post, not just the low post. A big game from Big Game James on both ends but especially on the glass would go a long way toward what we need to get done. Most of all it's going to take a total team effort on both ends of the floor to get this season to Saturday.