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Friday, March 9, 2012
Rapid Reaction: Arizona 72, Oregon St. 61

By T.J. Berka

LOS ANGELES -- Some thoughts from Arizona's 72-61 victory over Oregon State in a Pac-12 tournament semifinal Friday:

Overview: No. 4-seeded Arizona picked a heck of a time to come up with arguably its best half of the season, as it blitzed Oregon State to knock the Beavers out of tournament consideration and keep its hopes alive. After a lull at the end of the first half allowed Oregon State to build a seven-point halftime lead, the Wildcats overwhelmed Oregon State, which felt the effects of playing a third game in three nights.

Is it enough to get the Wildcats, who were the seventh team out in Joe Lunardi's most recent bracket update, in the tourney even with a loss on Saturday? Doubtful, but Arizona has a chance to take its tournament life out of the hands of the committee, which is all it can really ask.

Turning point: Halftime. Oregon State rolled in the final eight minutes of the first half, holding Arizona to one field goal while ripping off a 20-4 run to take a 34-27 lead. But whatever Arizona coach Sean Miller did to rally the troops during the break apparently worked, as the Wildcats ripped off a 20-3 run to open the second half, turning the seven-point deficit into a 47-37 advantage while holding Oregon State without a field goal for 6:16. Things didn't get much better for the Beavers after that, as Arizona extended its lead to as many as 14 points and was not significantly challenged by Oregon State the rest of the way.

Kyle Fogg and Jesse Perry keyed Arizona's second-half outburst, as Fogg scored 17 of his 22 points in the final 20 minutes while Perry added 10 points and 7 rebounds in the second half to finished with a double-double, compiling 16 points and 11 rebounds.

Key player: Fogg and Perry carried the way for the Wildcats, but Arizona also got 12 points from Solomon Hill. Senior guard Brendon Lavender was also crucial in the early stages of Arizona's run, draining a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 15:59 left in the second half to tie the game at 36. Nick Johnson's layup on Arizona's next possession put the Wildcats ahead to stay.

Sophomore reserve Roberto Nelson was a bright spot for the Beavers, as he scored 19 points to lead the Beavers. He was instrumental in Oregon State's run to end the first half, scoring five points during the rally, and was the only Oregon State player to really get it going in the second half, when he scored 14. Devon Collier added 15 points while Jared Cunningham added 14, though Cunningham, the Pac-12's leading scorer, struggled in the second half.

Key stat: After shooting 50 percent from the field in the first half (14-for-28), the Beavers were held to 27.3 percent shooting (9-for-33) in the second half. Arizona was deadly from 3-point range, making 9 of 18 triples.

Miscellaneous: Cunningham went ice-cold in the second half, only scoring 3 points on 1-of-8 shooting...With the loss, the Beavers will miss the NCAA tournament for the 22nd consecutive season dating back to the 1989-90 season. Oregon State was led then by future NBA All-Star Gary Payton, who sat courtside by former Los Angeles Laker and Oregon State alum A.C. Green for all three of the Beavers' games in the tournament.

What’s next: Arizona gets a chance to qualify automatically for its 26th NCAA tournament in 27 seasons on Saturday, as it will play the Colorado-California winner in the Pac-12 tournament title game at 6 p.m. Oregon State will have to wait to hear its postseason fate, as the Beavers have a chance to be selected to play in the NIT or CBI tournaments.