Freshman Nick Johnson took over at point guard for a while Sunday. "For (Johnson) to play point guard for the first time at Arizona under those conditions, a lot of other guys would have crumbled," coach Sean Miller said. "He didn't."


For the first time since Arizona and Oregon State were knotted with about three minutes left in the first half, the Wildcats did not trail Saturday. They were tied at 37, with McKale Center on its feet.

The Beavers traded a Seth Tarver jumper for a MoMo Jones free throw.

Then, with 9:12 left in the game, the frustration began - a stretch that would have Wildcats screaming at each other, Jamelle Horne pounding a basket support and the UA losing 63-55.

In jumping from a tied game to an eight-point lead in only 2:15, OSU made one three-point shot and had two old-fashioned three-point plays.

Like celebrity deaths, the Beavers struck in threes - usually with help from the Wildcats fouling.

"Tonight, they hurt us," Jones said. "I think everybody could tell that it hurt us. If you're a basketball fan or basketball journalist or anything, whether there are looks on our faces or no looks on our faces, deep down inside, it hurts to go on a run like that and get it even.

"We got some momentum going, and then they come back and get about three, four 'and ones' in a row.

"It's tough to deal with. Mentally, it kinda takes a toll on you."

UA coach Sean Miller said his defense - which he described as "chin-on-shoulder" - was not supposed to play a denying style.

"It's almost impossible to give up a back-door layup if we don't deny," he said. "We gave up maybe five.

"We got what we deserved."

Three seconds after Jones made his free throw, in a rare spate of quick offense, Oregon State center Roeland Schaftenaar launched a pure three-pointer to give the Beavers a 42-38 lead.

Derrick Williams made a layup to pull the UA back within two. On the next possession, OSU guard Jared Cunningham beat Kyle Fogg for a basket. Fogg was whistled for a foul, and Cunningham made the free throw.

Horne, in the midst of a 15-point, 14-rebound breakout game, pounded the padding behind the basket, and screamed at Fogg.

Miller said the Beavers "kinda stripped us of our confidence at times." At times, he said, three or four players would play stifling defense. The Beavers found the player who wasn't.

"Because of the way they play," Miller said, "they can really pick on a player."

After the failed ensuing UA possession, Schaftenaar beat Williams for a basket. The UA forward fouled, the Dutchman made his free throw, and Oregon State went ahead 48-40.

"We couldn't put it together when we needed to on the defensive end," wing Kevin Parrom said. "We got backdoored a couple times. I don't think we communicated enough."

The game stalled, scoreless for 2:34. When Oregon State broke the stalemate it was on a Cunningham jump shot - one he made while Williams was whistled for a foul.

Parrom said he didn't "think anything was tough about guarding their offense," but the Wildcats still couldn't.

Miller said the defensive struggles led to impatient offensive play, and the UA spiraled downward from there.

Miller called fouls on made baskets "a function of tentativeness" from the defender.

Players who foul when they are out of position tend to do so meekly, not disrupting the shooter enough, Miller continued.

"When you're an aggressive team, it's more about a blocked shot or a charge," he said. "We weren't that team."

The coach sounded ready to, in the long term, make sure his team never will be.

"I'm not for everybody," he said. "I mean, you as a coach really have that identity. … I don't want a guy that plays our way when things are only going good.

"That's what I'm here for. I'm going to address that."