TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — With one of the biggest games of the season just two days away, Oregon State could not afford a letdown against struggling Arizona.
It took the Beavers a half to get in sync, but once they did, the Wildcats never stood a chance.
Ali Gibson scored 12 points, Ruth Hamblin added 10 and No. 9 Oregon State set up a showdown with No. 13 Arizona State by running away from Arizona in the second half for a 73-55 victory on Friday night.
“You play for big games and you play for games that mean something and certainly they all do, but this one of course is between two teams that are unbeaten (in conference). What’s better than that?” Oregon State coach Scott Rueck said.
Oregon State (17-1, 7-0) had trouble shaking the Wildcats early, but turned it into a rout with a dominating second half.
The Beavers hit 16 of 28 shots in the second half and Hamblin made sure Arizona had no chance of mounting a comeback, blocking six shots.
Oregon State shot 52 percent overall and made 10 of 20 from 3-point range.
Arizona (7-11, 0-7) kept Oregon within reach through the first half behind Candice Warthen before fading against the deep, talented Beavers.
Warthen scored 22 points and LaBrittney Jones added 11 for the Wildcats, which saw a six-point halftime deficit quickly climb into double figures in the second half.
“In the second half, the first two, three minutes told the story,” Arizona coach Niya Butts said. “We didn’t come out with as much fire as we had.”
Oregon State has climbed the polls with the best start in school history, opening with 10 straight wins, then reeling off six more after its only loss, 74-63 at Tennessee on Dec. 28.
The Beavers’ showdown with the Sun Devils Sunday meant the key against Arizona was to avoid looking ahead.
The Wildcats were certainly a pushover on paper, winless through its first six games.
But Arizona has had a knack for big second-half comebacks, including from 17 down before losing to Cal in its last game, and has the kind of quickness to give the turnover-prone Beavers some trouble.
Warthen was the one causing the problems early, scoring seven points in the opening 41/2 minutes, including a shot-clock-beating 3-pointer against pressure.
Arizona was forcing turnovers and tough shots. The Wildcats also hit 7 of their first 11 shots to go up 15-10.
Oregon State started making shots from the perimeter after that, with five different players combining to hit six 3-pointers.
Arizona kept up with the Beavers behind Warthen, who had 14 points on 5-of-8.
“It was a matter of confidence for me tonight,” said Warthen, who hit 8 of 15 shots and had seven rebounds. “I haven’t really been myself lately and we have been struggling as a whole, so it was a point of focus for me tonight to come out and be confident in my shot.”
But after Arizona led 38-32 at halftime, Oregon State started to pull away from the Wildcats to open the second, scoring the first nine points.
The Beavers continued to hit shots and Arizona began struggle offensively, in part because of Hamblin, who swatted and altered just about everything in the lane.
Oregon State: The Beavers, the nation’s best defensive-rebounding team, had a 31-19 advantage on the defensive glass. Oregon State had a 40-31 edge overall. … Deven Hunter had 10 rebounds.
Arizona: The Wildcats scored 11 points off Oregon State’s 15 turnovers. … Arizona shot 9 of 27 in the second half.
Oregon State plays at No. 13 Arizona State on Sunday.
Arizona hosts Oregon on Sunday.
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