Men: Arizona 72, Oregon State 61
By Michelle Smith
LOS ANGELES - After last year's heartbreak, the Arizona Wildcats are taking another shot at the Pacific Life Pac-12 Tournament title.
A huge run to start the second half put Arizona in front and the Wildcats kept Oregon State at bay with great defense to close out a 72-61 win over the Beavers at the Staples Center on Friday night.
Arizona, which has won more Pac-12 tournament games than any team in league history with 21, will play for the championship and the automatic bid in the NCAA Tournament tomorrow against the winner of the late semifinal game between Cal and Colorado.
The Wildcats (23-10) have reached the title game seven times. They have won four conference tournament titles, but none since 2002.
And the senior-laden Wildcats still likely remember last year's trip to the final, which ended with a 77-75 overtime loss to Washington that still ranks as one of the most thrilling games in the tournament's history.
Oregon State, which came in to this game as the No. 9 seed, assumed the 34-27 lead at halftime after a 16-1 run led by Jared Cunningham and the catalyst play of guard Roberto Nelson off the bench.
But Arizona stormed back after halftime, going on a 20-3 run in the first five minutes, capped by a 3-pointer by Kyle Fogg that forced Oregon to call timeout and regroup.
Arizona played stellar defense throughout the game, but particularly in the second half, holding Oregon State to 27.3 percent shooting from the floor. They held the Beavers to their third-lowest scoring total of the season.
"We knew this game was going to be very challenging and difficult because they are so long and athletic," said Arizona coach Sean Miller. "They score the ball very easily, they force turnovers. They're great at getting second shots. But I give our guys credit."
Miller said he watched his team play "hard defense."
"I thought the first four minutes of the second half changed the game," he said.
Arizona got a game-high 22 points from Fogg. Jesse Perry posted a double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds. And Solomon Hill added 12 points.
Miller called that trio the "heart and soul of our team."
"When you talk about a go-to-guy, it's really those three. They have been the most consistent players on our team," Miller said. "They carry us. They are the most respected players on our team because of their experience."
Oregon State (19-14) was led by Nelson, who came off the bench to score 19 points. Devon Collier added 15 points and Cunningham, the Pac-12's regular-season scoring leader, added 14 points.
The Beavers are hoping for a postseason berth after a strong tournament run cheered on by alums Gary Payton and A.C. Green.
Beavers coach Craig Robinson thought playing three games in three days took a toll on his team.
"I thought we ran out of gas. We were getting stuff in the first half, and in the second half we were getting the same stuff and we didn't finish and that's a sign of fatigue," saidRobinson. "We're hoping we are not done playing."