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March 5, 2014

No. 3 Arizona looks to slow down Pac-12 scoring leader - again

Roberto Nelson leads the Pac-12 Conference in scoring at 20.6 points per game, but Wednesday the senior guard will run into his nemesis one final time in hopes of getting the last laugh.

Arizona has limited the Oregon State star to 7.4 points on 30.2 percent shooting in seven career games - including 10 points on 3-of-12 shooting in the first meeting this season.

Tipoff at Gill Coliseum in Corvallis, Ore., is scheduled for 9:07 p.m. MT.

"Arizona did a good job of guarding [Nelson]," OSU head coach Craig Robinson said. "He was having a tough time getting good looks."

Since that 76-54 win on Feb. 9, the third-ranked Wildcats (27-2, 14-2 Pac-12 Conference) have locked up the league's regular-season title and the No. 1 seed in the Pac-12 tournament that comes with it.

Freshman forward Aaron Gordon led the way with 19 points and a career-high 15 rebounds in the 79-66 clincher Sunday against Stanford.

With just two otherwise meaningless games remaining before the postseason, UA insists it looks to keep the momentum of a four-game winning streak going instead of relaxing.

Over the last three games, the Wildcats are averaging 84.7 points and have shot 42.5 percent from the 3-point line. That's more than 10 full points and nearly seven full percentage points better than their respective season averages.

"We want to go down (as one of the best) in Arizona history, and all the great teams finished out their season," leading scorer and Pac-12 player of the year frontrunner Nick Johnson said. "We're clicking on all cylinders right now."

Johnson, who also is in the running for the Oscar Robertson and James Naismith national player of the year awards, will draw the defensive assignment on Nelson.

Even more than the offensive end, UA head coach Sean Miller said the team's defense must remain consistent and "intact" in the final week of the regular season. Teams are averaging just 58.2 points on 38.3 percent shooting, tied for eighth-best in the country.

"If nothing else, we can't lose that. That's been with us from the start and we want to make sure it's with us all the way to the end," Miller said.

The Beavers (15-13, 7-9 Pac-12), meanwhile, are looking to avoid a repeat of a sub-40 percent shooting night and Gordon's game-high 17 points in the previous meeting.

That was one of five losses in a recent seven-game stretch. OSU is coming off a 74-69 loss Sunday at UCLA, despite Nelson's 23 points, five rebounds and five assists.

The Beavers were outscored 20-5 in points off turnovers and missed nine free throws.

"I think the points off turnovers and our missed foul shots really shot us in the foot," Robinson said.

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Tracy McDannaldTracy McDannald
GOAZCATS.com Senior Editor

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