CORVALLIS, Ore. - Ever since the Arizona Wildcats began full practices in October, coach Sean Miller has been stressing the need for better offensive rebounding.
Miller also replaced Jamelle Horne with Jesse Perry in the starting lineup last month in part to improve that aspect, and it worked mostly.
So what happened when the midseason point hit and the Wildcats went to Oregon last week?
They collected single-digit offensive boards both in games against Oregon and Oregon State, with just five on Sunday in their 76-75 loss to the Beavers.
Meanwhile, OSU had 12 offensive boards and 17 second-chance points, numbers that stuck in Miller's mind as much if not more than the Wildcats' poor free-throw (54.2 percent) and three-point (30 percent) shooting at OSU.
"If we shot the ball better from the line, the outcome could have been different and probably would have been," Miller said. "But that's not the whole story. I think 17 points that Oregon State scored off the second shots talks about how they're a very aggressive, athletic, deep team.
"One of the things we've talked about getting better at is offensive rebounding. And right now, we're not getting any productivity on second shots," Miller added.
Before the trip to Oregon, the Wildcats were plus-nine in offensive rebounding for the season; now they're minus-three.
Giving up the second shots, and committing 25 fouls to OSU's 18, also spoke to Miller about the general lack of toughness in the Wildcats.
"We can't let guys on the other team, especially guards, go in and score," Miller said. "I thought they deserved to win because of their aggression.
"Looking at the fouls, a lot of our fouls were guys reacting late or out of position. So it wasn't that we were aggressive with our fouls. At times they were the quicker team to the ball, and they were the more aggressive team getting it close to the basket."
The Wildcats went to the free-throw line eight fewer times than the Beavers and compounded the differential by making only 13 of 24 free throws.
Forward Derrick Williams, who entered the game shooting 81.7percent from the line, hit just 3 of 10.
"It was just one of those nights," Williams said. "I'm one of the leaders on the team, and a lot of people follow what I do, and it gets contagious. Not hitting the free throws and giving up second-chance buckets is what killed us, especially in the second half."
The toughness issue struck home for guard MoMo Jones, who did his usual job of becoming more aggressive with the ball just as the Wildcats were sputtering Sunday. Jones had 14 of his game-high 20 points in the second half, though he had five turnovers to one assist.
Similarly, during UA's dreary 87-65 loss to BYU last month, Jones crammed all 20 of his points into the second half.
"I just wanted to come out and play hard," Jones said. "It's the Pac-10 season, and we want to win the Pac-10 championship, and I had to step up. For us to win, I have to step up, cut down on the turnovers and play like I did. … But Oregon State played hard. You gotta give them a lot of credit. They beat us fair and square."
Because they played a Sunday night game, the Wildcats will have a day shorter to get back into Pac-10 play, just two days of practice before facing California on Thursday night at McKale Center.
"It's hard … especially (for) a team that left on Wednesday morning," Miller said.
The good news for the Wildcats is that they actually have their next three games at home - Cal on Thursday, Stanford on Saturday and ASU on Jan. 15 - before they head out on the road again.
By the time they begin that potentially treacherous trip, at Washington and Washington State the weekend of Jan. 20-22, the Wildcats would be 15-3 overall and 4-1 in the Pac-10 if they can sweep the next three home games.
"Home games are what's going to help us out," Williams said. "And we've either got to get the split or the sweep on the road."
• Washington's Matthew Bryan-Amaning was named the Pac-10's player of the week after averaging 19.5 points and 9.0 rebounds in the Huskies' sweep at USC and UCLA.
• Who: California at Arizona
• When: 8:30 p.m. Thursday
• TV: FSAZ
• Radio: 1290-AM, 107.5-FM, 990-AM (Spanish)