CORVALLIS, Ore. — The Arizona Wildcats have two full days to recover from their worst beating on the rebounding glass of the season.
But chances are that won’t be best accomplished on the practice court.
Rather, it could come from extra time in the meeting rooms. Or on the couch. Sitting, thinking, figuring out exactly where their heads need to be, heading into a regular-season finale at Oregon’s Matthew Knight Arena on Saturday.
There, rebounding monster Mike Moser (49 rebounds in his last three games) and his newly congealed Duck buddies will be awaiting them, ready to tear the Wildcats off the boards if they aren’t ready.
That’s pretty much what Oregon State did on Wednesday, out-rebounding UA 43-34 overall and collecting 15 second-chance points on 16 offensive boards, making the Wildcats sweat out a 74-69 win at Gill Coliseum.
“If we would have rebounded like we’ve done all season long, the game would have felt a lot different,” UA coach Sean Miller said. “I guess we need to get back to why we didn’t and get it back for Saturday.”
Part of the problem was that freshman Aaron Gordon, who had 15 rebounds three days earlier against Stanford, had just two. Another was OSU, of course: The Beavers were tough in the post and had several seniors who were looking to finish off their final home week with a signature win.
They had effort, always considered a major component of rebounding success.
“No team in the 30 games that we’ve played, nobody has punished us on the glass like Oregon State did,” Miller said. “They were bigger, physical and … (OSU’s) Eric Moreland, Devon Collier and Angus Brandt — I would put their physicalness, their size, against any front line in the country. There might be some front lines that you like more because they’re more talented and this or that, but just from a physical perspective … we felt it.”
OSU quickly answered an early 7-0 UA lead and stayed within two baskets for almost the entire second half, until the Wildcats’ defense finally perked up late in the game and held the Beavers to five points over the final 5:15.
“They had nothing to lose,” guard Gabe York said. “They rebounded the ball tonight. You could just tell that they were very aggressive and they wanted to get these wins.”
Oregon doesn’t have quite as imposing a front line, but Moser has been on a tear on the glass, while little-used senior center Waverly Austin is coming off a career night against ASU on Tuesday, when he collected 10 rebounds and five blocks.
Like OSU’s key players, Moser and Austin are seniors wanting to finish strong, and they wouldn’t mind punishing UA on the glass, either.
So, while the Wildcats planned practices for Thursday and today, you can bet Miller will spend a lot of time just talking about exactly that.
“We have to address (rebounding) and just make sure we’re responsible,” Miller said. “You don’t go 30 games and not have one or two off nights in that area, but this is a good reminder for us that in March, teams are desperate. And like I always say, we want to be the same team, do what you do well. But (at OSU) we didn’t rebound well.”