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February 9, 2014
No. 2 Arizona expects to dig into bench vs. OSU
If Sean Miller has his way Sunday night, second-ranked Arizona will go a bit deeper into its bench than it did in its first game since the season-ending injury that shook up the lineup.
In their first game without Brandon Ashley, the Wildcats (22-1, 9-1 Pac-12 Conference) overcame worse shooting percentages in all three areas Thursday to squeak past Oregon, 67-65. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, starting in place of Ashley, notched his first career double-double with 14 points and a career-high 10 rebounds.
But with point guard T.J. McConnell in early foul trouble, Miller elected to go with a smaller lineup and never inserted Matt Korcheck like he originally planned. The fifth-year head coach said Korcheck, a seldom-used big man, will likely see a role against Oregon State (13-9, 5-5 Pac-12), similar to the 12 minutes Elliott Pitts provided against the Ducks.
Tipoff at McKale Center is scheduled for 5 p.m.
"I wish we would've got Matt in," Miller said. "That was the plan, and then the game started to go differently.
"I think we'll need Matt on Sunday. I think he'll get an opportunity on Sunday, similar to what you saw with Elliott."
There may be no hesitation to play Korcheck this time around, too. UA was outrebounded by Oregon, 40-35 - including 13 offensive boards. Although the Wildcats had 15 second-chance opportunities of their own, Miller was upset enough to the point he split his pants on a demonstration in the huddle.
But he also saw a team playing without one of its starters in a full game for the first time, as well as one that is now calling on a bench player with 10 games of Division I experience.
Korcheck has played just twice in UA's last nine games, totaling just four minutes of action.
"Confidence is everything," Miller said, "and it allows us to maintain a level of confidence moving into the next game, which I hope we can improve and be even better against Oregon State than we were here tonight."
The Beavers come to Tucson in the thick of the league standings, sitting just outside the top half in seventh place.
OSU, picked to finish 10th in the 12-team league, had won four of five games before dropping Thursday's 86-82 overtime decision at Arizona State.
Pac-12 leading scorer Roberto Nelson had 24 of his 26 points after halftime, but the Beavers were outscored 22-18 in the extra session.
"This is going to be hard but every game is hard in this conference," OSU head coach Craig Robinson said. "There are no easy nights off, especially on the road. You almost have to play a perfect game to win on the road. Now we have to go down and play the No. 2 team in the country who is going to be really good. It's never ending."
Nelson, who is averaging 22 points per game, has never scored more than 19 in his six career games against the Wildcats.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
GOAZCATS.com Senior Editor
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