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1. T.J. McConnell certifiable Pac-12 Player of the Year candidate
McConnell’s stat line is one that is out of the norm, which is an apt description of a conference player of the year candidate.
Here it is: 7 points, 4 rebounds, 6 assist and 8 steals. And he had a blocked shot.
“It’s hard to get eight steals in eight games, let alone eight steals in 30 minutes,” Arizona coach Sean Miller told Brian Jeffries during the KCUB (1290-AM) postgame radio show.
In both games against Oregon’s Joe Young and Oregon State’s Gary Payton II — two viable all-conference selections — McConnell obviously outplayed each this week. His team is leading the Pac-12 with an 8-1 record at the turn of the conference schedule.
McConnell also had only one turnover in 30 minutes. He has 128 assists compared to only 39 turnovers this season.
He made only 3 of 9 shots from the field, which is an upset with him shooting 49.1 percent entering the game. His misses are becoming a surprise because of how hot he has shot the ball as of late.
2. Arizona answers rebounding challenge in second half.
Although it looked miserable trailing 24-13 at halftime, Oregon State went into the locker room with a 16-13 rebounding edge. That was a concern for Arizona, which was outrebounded 32-26 in the loss earlier this month in Corvallis, Ore.
The Wildcats answered the bell in the second half. The Wildcats had more defensive rebounds (16) in the half than Oregon State had overall. Arizona outrebounded the Beavers 24-11 in the last 20 minutes.
Stanley Johnson, Arizona’s leading rebounder entering the game (6.9 a game), posted nine rebounds, all on the defensive end, which was important in this game.
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Miller made the comment before halftime during a Pac-12 Networks telecast that if Oregon State is allowed to get an offensive rebound, the Beavers can take another 30 seconds off the clock. Wayne Tinkle’s team was not afforded that opportunity much in the second half. Oregon State had only five offensive boards in the second half.
Arizona averaged more possession time (20 seconds) than Oregon State (18) in the second half. As Miller indicated, the Wildcats “settled in” and played their game largely because of the rebounding.
3. Brandon Ashley atones for performance in Corvallis.
In the loss at Gill Coliseum, Ashley made only 2 of 8 field goals and finished with five points and three rebounds. Tonight at McKale, he looked like an NBA talent with 12 points on 5-of-9 shooting from the field with six rebounds. He was a difference-maker on the blocks, taking the ball aggressively to the hoop.
Pac-12 Networks studio analyst Kevin O’Neill went so far as to say that Ashley should be a player of the year candidate if Arizona wins the conference title.
Save for a defensive breakdown against Olaf Schaftenaar, who drilled a three-pointer over his late-arriving defense, Ashley played solid overall.
Ashley, who also had a blocked shot, has evolved into a more effective player in Arizona’s six-game winning streak, much like McConnell and Johnson. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson may not be producing as much on offense as he did during the non-conference season but his defense has more than made up for that.
Payton II had only six points on 3-of-13 shooting from the field, including 0-for-3 from beyond the arc, mostly against Hollis-Jefferson. He had almost more turnovers (five) than points.
“With Rondae, you always remember who he’s guarding and he did an outstanding job on Payton,” Miller told Jeffries.
Wayne Tinkle called T.J. McConnell his Pac-12 Player of the Year
Sean Miller agrees with Bill Walton: T.J. McConnell is Pac-12 player of the year so far.