The Arizona Wildcats' freshmen were given another test Thursday, and it was a breeze.
This one was titled: How to properly channel anger from a really bad weekend.
After the Wildcats dropped out of first place in the Pac-10 last week with a close loss at Washington and a spiritless defeat at Washington State, Arizona blew out Oregon 70-57 Thursday in a game that wasn't as close as the score indicated.
"We had a bad taste in our mouth," freshman guard MoMo Jones said, "and we wanted to get rid of that taste."
The UA freshmen put the Ducks away for good, scoring the first 32 of the Wildcats' 34 points in the second half, when the game appeared all but over with 16 minutes left.
"We came a long way," Jones said of UA's five freshmen. "At the beginning of the season, we wouldn't be able to do that. We just worked and worked and worked hard to get to where we are right now."
Their efforts helped UA pull off the easiest win … since the last time they played Oregon, not only giving them a season sweep of the Ducks (12-11, 4-6) but also keeping them in a second-place tie in the Pac-10 at 7-5.
The Wildcats (13-11 overall) will play Saturday against Oregon State (10-13, 4-7), which lost 56-46 at ASU on Thursday.
A 74-60 winner at Eugene, Ore., a month earlier, Arizona did it this time with a quick shot of Derrick Williams early in both halves, a strong effort from point guard Nic Wise and key complementary help from Jones, center Kyryl Natyazhko and guard Brendon Lavender.
As it turned out, the Wildcats survived easily without the usual offensive help from sophomore guard Kyle Fogg and junior forward Jamelle Horne.
While Fogg was 0 for 9 from the field, scoring just one point, he had a season-high and career-tying eight assists.
Horne had just four points and one rebound, having started the game even though Miller had considered altering the lineup. Horne has just six rebounds in UA's past four games but Miller said he decided to stick with Horne because his shooting (49 percent from three-point range in conference games) could be critical against the Ducks' zone.
"I thought Jamelle's heart was in the right place," Miller said. "He had a couple of good days of practice. I had a good feeling that he was going to break out. It just statistically didn't happen."
Williams led all scores with 20 points while also grabbing six rebounds and dishing three assists, while Wise had 10 points, four rebounds and two assists. Off the bench, Jones had 11 points and six rebounds, while Natyazhko had five rebounds and Lavender had a pair of key three-pointers.
Arizona shot 46.7 percent from the field while holding Oregon to 38.6 percent shooting. The Wildcats also out-rebounded the Ducks 40-33.
While Horne did manage to make UA's final field goal, at a time when Miller lamented the fact that the Wildcats did not close out the game better, it was Williams and the freshmen who were all over the place in the second half.
Williams scored the Wildcats' first five points of the game and the first 11 of the second half, when UA built a 47-29 lead with 16:27 to go.
The Ducks cut it to 49-33 on a basket from Matthew Humphrey with 15 minutes to go but Jones hit a three-pointer to put UA up by 19 and the Wildcats were never seriously threatened from there.
Arizona pulled away from Oregon by grabbing five steals over the first eight minutes of the second half. The Wildcats scored 23 points off 15 Oregon turnovers.
"We want a quick pace up the floor," Miller said. "When you look at the most exciting thing second half, we had defense leading to a lot of (transition) opportunities."
When they weren't moving, the Wildcats were also passing, working their way carefully around Oregon's zone defenses. UA had 20 assists for its 28 field goals, taking control of the game with an 11-2 run toward the end of the first half that helped them build a 36-28 halftime lead.
"That was the name of the game coming in," Wise said. "They play a lot of zone and you're not going to beat it going one-on-one."
That passing could come in handy on Saturday, when the Wildcats will face the Beavers' 1-3-1 zone, which helped OSU knock off Arizona 67-64 on Jan. 12 in Corvallis.
"It's a different type of zone," Wise said. "That's something they work on every single day. It's going to be more of a challenge come Saturday."
On StarNet: Follow the Arizona basketball team on Bruce Pascoe's blog at go.azstarnet.com/pascoe
• What: Oregon State at Arizona
• When: 6 p.m. Saturday
• TV: Channel 58
• Radio: 1290-AM, 107.5-FM, 990-AM (Spanish)