Oregon State trailed Arizona by only 2 with less than 2 minutes to play Wednesday
Time after time, Arizona strung together modest leads.
Oregon State bounced back from a nine-point deficit in the first half and a seven-point hole in the second, staying with the No. 3 Wildcats (28-2, 15-2 Pac-12) until the final minute.
The last push by Arizona was the difference as Oregon State started off the last week of the regular season with a 74-69 defeat in Gill Coliseum.
Oregon State (15-14, 7-10) locked up the 10th-place spot in the conference while Arizona already had the Pac-12 regular season title in hand before Wednesday night.
The Beavers managed to hang with Arizona the whole way but couldn't overcome 17 turnovers and a 55 percent free throw shooting night.
"We did shoot ourselves in the foot by not making foul shots and turning the ball over a little too much," said head coach Craig Robinson. "All of that stuff notwithstanding, we were still right there at the end of the game."
The Beavers only made 5-of-14 free throws after halftime.
"I missed a lot of free throws," said senior guard Roberto Nelson. "If I make those free throws, I think we have a better chance of winning."
Nelson was 9-for-13 from the line himself while using 22 field goal attempts to get to his team-leading 25 points.
"I was just off, it was bad," Nelson said. "Even when I made (shots) in the first half, something didn't feel good. I wasn't shooting the ball up enough, it was coming off my fingers wrong."
He added five rebounds and three assists, but also six turnovers.
OSU commanded a 43-34 lead on the boards but allowed 12 offensive rebounds.
"They're the best team in the country when it comes to getting second-chance points and as a collective unit hustling throughout the whole game," Nelson said.
Arizona put together multiple mini-runs, including the first 3:07 of the game when Arizona sprinted to a 7-0 advantage.
Oregon State called timeout and senior forward Devon Collier made the most of his first playing time right afterwards -- his 3-point play just 18 seconds later and an assist for a Roberto Nelson 3-pointer on the following possession forced the Wildcats to take their own timeout with the lead down to one.
The Wildcats gradually pushed their lead to nine, capped by junior guard Nick Johnson's dunk with 3:53 left before the break.
It gave Johnson 14 points for the half -- he would finish with 25 -- but the Beavers got their next jump-start from sophomore forward Olaf Schaftenaar 13 seconds later with a 3-pointer that led to a 7-0 run.
The Wildcats outscored the Beavers 17-6 in between those two spurts but the halftime break only delayed Arizona's rebuttal.
After Arizona got two quick buckets to start the second half, Nelson played the spark-plug role with five points in 32 seconds before assisting on two 3-pointers from freshman guard Hallice Cooke that gave the Beavers a 46-44 lead.
Robinson noted that the Beavers kept the game close the entire way -- something they didn't do Feb. 9 against Arizona.
"That team ran away from us the last time we played them at their place and they've run away from a lot of teams since then," Robinson said.
For Arizona, Johnson and York made all seven of the Wildcat's seven 3-pointers and Johnson added three offensive boards -- the last of which resulted in a 3-pointer by sophomore guard Gabe York that eliminated the last lead the Beavers would own.
"This was a game where if we came out with a win, people would have understood what we've been saying," Nelson said. "We've been preaching that we can play with anybody. ... I think we showed it tonight but people will overlook us with the loss."
Josh Worden, sports reporter
On Twitter @WordenJosh