Arizona’s anticipated game against No. 22 Oregon last weekend was postponed because of COVID-19 complications involving the Ducks, so coach Sean Miller and the Wildcats may be able to more fully concentrate on a matchup with Oregon State on Thursday at Corvallis, Ore.
The Wildcats (9-3, 3-3 Pac-12) need that focus after getting swept at home by Southern California and UCLA last week, and the news that one of their top players, guard Jemarl Baker, is out for the rest of the season with a broken wrist.
Baker was averaging 12.0 points a game and is one of Miller’s senior leaders on a team that is laden with newcomers.
“We’re moving on,” Miller said. “The only thing that matters for us right now is to grow, improve and be ready for Oregon State and win that game. To go on the road in the Pac-12 and win is hard.”
Miller said Terrell Brown, a graduate transfer from Seattle, will take over Baker’s role as a proven ball-handler. Miller also said Bennedict Mathurin will replace fellow freshman Dalen Terry at small forward, and Christian Koloko will take over for Jordan Brown at the post.
Koloko started the first six games, while Jordan Brown played power forward. Miller moved Azuolas Tubelis to power forward on Dec. 22 against Montana and slid Brown to center while moving Koloko to the bench. Miller will keep Tubelis at power forward.
Against USC and UCLA, Arizona had trouble keeping the guards from penetrating and drawing fouls. USC shot 58.5 percent from the field, while UCLA shot 49 percent and took 32 free throws.
Koloko’s presence at the rim could deter opposing guards from penetrating.
Oregon State (5-4, 1-2) enters the game after missing last week’s games at Utah and Colorado because of positive COVID-19 tests within the program.
Tuesday was the first time in eight days that the Beavers practiced as a group. Previously, they worked on individual drills and shooting.
“We’ve had a lot of time on our hands,” Oregon State coach Wayne Tinkle said. “You have to imagine being 18 to 22 years old and away from home and dealing with some of these things.”
Ethan Thompson, always a starter in his 103-game career, leads Oregon State in scoring (16.3 points a game) and assists (4.0). He has struggled in conference play, averaging 11.7 points, and is shooting 3 of 16 on 3-pointers and 12 of 33 overall.
–Field Level Media