Arizona-Oregon State Men's Hoops Preview

Feb. 28, 2001

TUCSON, Ariz. - Although claiming the Pac-10 title remains a possibility, Arizona coach LuteOlson wants his team to begin focusing on a much bigger prize Thursday when itopens its final homestand of the season against Oregon State.

Two games behind top-ranked Stanford with four to play, the ninth-rankedWildcats (19-7, 11-3 Pac-10) are certainly not giving up on the Pac-10 race,not with a visit to Maples Pavilion scheduled for March 8.

But Olson has won Pac-10 titles before - nine of them to be exact - and hefirmly believes his team must look beyond catching the first-place Cardinal.

'If things break right, great,' Olson said. 'If not, we just look back at1997 and look back and see what is more important, winning the conference titleor the NCAA tournament title. It is not that ancient to these guys that theydon't recognize that.'

Olson was referring to his 1997 team that finished fifth in the Pac-10 butwent on to win the national championship.

'Our practices have been very good,' he added. 'You can just see thatthey are getting primed. We have played really well ever since the Oregon game.I think our progress has been very steady now.'

Since the 79-67 loss at Oregon on Feb. 1, the Wildcats have gone 5-1, withthe lone defeat during that span coming in overtime at UCLA on Feb. 15. Arizonahas beaten its last six opponents by 20 points or more, shooting a sparkling 52percent (183-of-352) in those contests.

Included in that impressive stretch is an 88-58 rout at Arizona State onFeb. 21. Gilbert Arenas scored 18 of his 22 points in the second half, when theWildcats used a 17-2 burst to put away their intrastate rivals.

The Beavers (10-17, 4-11) have split their last four games, includingSaturday's 68-65 overtime loss at UCLA.

This will mark the 50th meeting between the schools, with Arizona holding a34-15 advantage. The Wildcats have won 20 of the last 23 meetings, including a68-41 triumph at Corvallis on Feb. 3., and are 18-5 in Tucson against theBeavers.

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