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February 9, 2014

Gordon, Wildcats find shooting touch in win over Beavers

Aaron Gordon's struggles from the free-throw line this season have been well-documented. But converting from anywhere on the floor recently has been an adventure for the freshman.

The 6-9 forward turned it around Sunday - sparked from one of the more unlikely areas: the 3-point line.

Gordon led four Wildcats in double figures, scoring a game-high 17 points in a 76-54 win over Oregon State at McKale Center.

"I thought it was an overall, very good team performance tonight," UA head coach Sean Miller said. "We did it at both ends.

"To me, we were a much more confident group in today's game."

Gordon converted 8 of 12 shots for the Wildcats (23-1, 10-1 Pac-12 Conference), who shot 50 percent from the floor for the first time in six games.

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson added 16 points, T.J. McConnell chipped in 11 and Nick Johnson finished with 10.

"We were clicking on offense and I thought we played well on defense," said McConnell, who made 5 of 8 shots to go with six rebounds, six assists and two steals.

Roberto Nelson, the league's top scorer at 20 points per game, scored just half of that on a 3-of-12 shooting night for the Beavers (13-10, 5-6 Pac-12).

Angus Brandt led the way with 14 for OSU, which was outscored 40-12 in the paint and 13-0 on second-chance points.

"It's disappointing that we didn't play better, especially since we have been playing better," Beavers head coach Craig Robinson said. "I didn't think we came out with our best effort and I want to take blame for that.

"Today we couldn't stop them. They shot 50 percent. This is a good team here, it's fun to watch when you aren't getting beat by them."

The Wildcats, in their best offensive rhythm in nearly a month, also received a boost from reserve Jordin Mayes. The senior checked in for a 3-minute spurt in the second half and scored a season-high seven points - highlighted by a 3-pointer at the 8:54 mark to push the lead to 19.

Mayes had just six total points in UA's previous 10 games, playing sparingly and on four occasions not at all.

"It's just me seeing the ball go through the rim, giving me good confidence out there," said Mayes, who finished with nine points - including six from the free-throw line - and received a standing ovation after his first stint.

Arizona re-asserted itself on the glass, as well. After losing the rebounding battle in two of the previous three contests, the Wildcats owned a 39-24 edge - including a 15-4 advantage on the offensive boards.

"They're the best team in our league at not allowing their opponents to get second shots," Miller said. "The fact that we had 15 against them and outrebounded them 39-24, that's who we are."

The story early was Gordon, who came into the game without a made 3-pointer since Dec. 19 against Southern University. He had missed his previous eight attempts, rarely looking for the long-range shot as of late.

The previous four games, in general, have been rough for Gordon. He came in a combined 11 of 42 from the field.

"It helped my confidence a little bit," said Gordon, who added five rebounds. "I know I'm a very capable shooter. Just to see one go down, it just feels good. I'm just going to continue to shoot and have confidence in it."

Jump-started by his tip-in, the Wildcats went on a stretch in which they made 9 of 12 shots - including a Gordon's 3-pointer on a catch-and-shoot attempt in the corner with 8:02 left in the half. That turned a one-point deficit into a seven-point advantage, capped by a McConnell jump shot.

Gordon, Hollis-Jefferson and McConnell combined to score 28 points on 12-of-20 shooting in the half. Gordon, in particular, scored on a variety of drives and a jump hook shot.

"He's finding his way," Miller said of Gordon. "Sometimes teams are trying to choose to not guard him. Me, as a coach, has to help him, put the ball in a good position so that when they choose not to do that, he can really punish them.

"We did that better tonight. When he gets the ball in and around the key area, good luck."

Over the final 1:05, McConnell added an assist on Gabe York's 3-pointer and his own mid-range basket to give the Wildcats a 37-27 halftime lead.

The Beavers opened the second half scoring in the first 12 seconds, but it was the only time they had the deficit under 10 the rest of the way and trailed by as many as 24.

Tracy McDannaldTracy McDannald
GOAZCATS.com Senior Editor

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