TUCSON, Ariz. — Freshman forward Aaron Gordon scored a team-high 17 points, and Arizona neutralized the Pac-12’s leading scorer as the No. 2 Wildcats cruised to a 76-54 victory over Oregon State at McKale Center on Sunday.
It was arguably the most complete offensive performance of the season for Gordon, who had been 11-of-42 from the field in the past four games.
Known for his highlight dunks, Gordon scored in a variety of ways against Oregon State — a 3-pointer, a tip-in, a driving left-handed layup, a jump hook and a drive in which he went behind the back with his dribble, split two defenders and finished with a short jumper. Gordon made 8-of-12 shots Sunday.
That’s the kind of offense Arizona (23-1, 10-1) is seeking in the absence of starting forward Brandon Ashley, who suffered a season-ending foot injury on Feb. 1.
Oregon State (13-10, 5-6) has lost five of its six conference road games.
Arizona led by 10 at halftime and was up by at least 15 for most of the final 10 minutes. The Wildcats got 16 points from forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and 11 from point guard T.J. McConnell, who added six assists and six rebounds.
Oregon State center Angus Brandt was able to keep the Beavers close for a while in the first half, finishing with a team-high 14 points, including a pair of 3-pointers. Guard Roberto Nelson, the Pac-12’s leading scorer at 22.0 points per game, was not much of a factor, however. He was guarded most of the game by Arizona defensive ace Nick Johnson, who chipped in 10 points.
Nelson scored 10 points on 3-of-12 shooting, missing all three of his attempts from behind the arc. It was his second-lowest scoring output of the season, behind a four-point effort against Towson, in which he was ejected after eight minutes.
Arizona, with seven conference games remaining, has a 2 1/2-game lead on second-place UCLA (7-3). Five of the Wildcats’ remaining regular-season games are on the road.
Oregon State, which entered the game with a .500 or better record in league play through 10 games for just the second time since 1993, led for almost all of the first eight minutes, until Hollis-Jefferson dunked for a 12-11 Arizona edge with 11:55 to go.
Arizona shed its recent shooting woes in the first half. The Wildcats, who shot 37 percent from the field in the past four games, made 16-of-27 attempts (55.2 percent) before halftime. Much of their success came on mid-range jumpers.
The Wildcats led 31-24 when McConnell corralled a blocked shot and made a short jumper with 3:11 to go. At that point, Arizona was on a streak in which it made 12-of-16 shots.
The Cats finished with a flourish, too, with guard Gabe York’s 3-pointer and McConnell’s 12-foot jumper finishing the first-half scoring for a 37-27 lead at the break.
NOTES: The men’s game was the back end of a doubleheader at McKale Center. Earlier, the Arizona women’s team upset No. 11 Arizona State 68-49. … G Roberto Nelson, who entered the game averaging 22.0 points per game, is on pace to become the first Oregon State player to lead the Pac-12 in scoring since Gary Payton in 1990. … Arizona freshman guard Elliott Pitts was the second player off the bench for the second consecutive game. He has moved ahead of senior guard Jordin Mayes in the rotation. … Arizona forward Aaron Gordon hit a 3-pointer in the first half. It was his first made 3-point attempt since Dec. 19. He had missed eight attempts since then.
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