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November 25, 2012

Beavs gearing up for tests on the hardwood

After splitting a pair of games on the big stage in the Big Apple, the Oregon State men's basketball team now gets to enjoy the comforts of home for a few days.

Beginning with today's 3 p.m. (Pac-12 Networks) PT matchup with Montana State (1-1) in the third annual Nike7 Game presented by Spirit Mountain casino, OSU will play 10 of their next 12 games in the Beaver State, including nine games at Gill Coliseum and one at Portland State.

However, the first of the two road contests is a doozy. In perhaps one of the biggest non-conference games in school history, Oregon State (3-1) squares off with perennial national power Kansas on November 30 (5 p.m. PT) at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, MO.

The Beavers are coming off an impressive showing in the consolation game of the 2K Sports Classic when Devon Collier collected career highs in points (27) and rebounds (14) to spark OSU to a 66-58 victory over Purdue at Madison Square Garden on November 16.

Collier is a native of the Bronx in New York City and enjoyed a happy homecoming to the East Coast. He scored 48 points in Oregon State's two games in New York City and is now shooting 54.3 percent (19-of-35) from the field one season after leading the Pac-12 in field goal percentage at 61.5 percent in 2011-12, the first time a Beavers players had led the conference in that category since 1991-92 (Scott Haskin).

Robinson pointed to the victory over a quality Big 10 team in which OSU had to "hold on to our guts and make plays down the stretch" as a sign the culture around the Beavers program is finally changing.

But the victory didn't come without the Beavers paying a heavy price. Senior center Angus Brandt, who was averaging 11.5 points and 8.5 rebounds per game, was lost for the season with torn right knee ligaments. The 6-foot-10 Brandt is eligible for a medical redshirt and could return next season.

Brandt, a two-time team captain, started 50 of 51 games before suffering the unfortunate injury when his knee buckled when he took a pass and started to make a cut in the late stages of the win over Purdue. The Aussie was ninth in the Pac-12 in field goal percentage (53.5 percent) last season and led the Beavers in 3-point percentage at 49.2 percent (29-of-59).

Per Oregon State, the official word on his application for a medical hardship should come in March during the Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas. The petition should be approved since Brandt played in fewer than 10 games during the first half of the season.

Oregon State's solid start has been marked by exceptional team defense and rebounding. The common thread weaving through the first three wins is the opponent has shot less than 40 percent from the field. The Beavers are 9-1 since the start of last season when they hold the opposing team under 40 percent from the field.

Through four games, opponents are shooting just 38.1 percent from the field and 34.1 percent from beyond the 3-point arc, scoring 67 points per game. All three numbers have fallen significantly from last season, a positive sign for a team looking to reach the NCAA Tournament.

In addition, Oregon State has outrebounded three of its four opponents (Purdue, Alabama and Niagara) by a whopping 137-97 margin. The Beavers outrebounded all three teams by at least 11 boards per game. Eric Moreland, who hit his second career 3-pointer in the final minute against Purdue to give the Beavers a five-point lead, is averaging 10.5 rebounds per game and bidding to become the first OSU player since 1963-64 to average double-figure rebounds in a season.

"This year, rebounding is a point of emphasis for us," Robinson said. "We've always been outrebounded, and we have a frontcourt that takes rebounding very seriously, very personally."

The Beavers will wear special turquoise Nike uniforms when they meet Montana State for the sixth time in history (MSU leads series, 3-2), but the first since November of 2008 when Robinson was coaching his fourth game for the Beavers.

Montana State defeated Portland, 83-64, Sunday in Bozeman and traveled to Air Force Wednesday night before heading to Corvallis for its lone contest against a Pac-12 foe this season.

Montana State features explosive guard Antonio Biglow, who scored 23 points in the Bobcats' 19-point win over Portland on Sunday, shooting 8-of-14 from the floor. Biglow teams with scrappy point guard Marcus Colbert to spark the Bobcats, while junior college transfer Paul Egwuonwu mans the middle.

FIRST FOUR RESULTS:
Nov. 9 vs. Niagara, W 102-83
Nov. 11 vs. New Mexico State, W 71-62
Nov. 15 vs. Alabama (at New York City), L 65-62
Nov. 16 vs. Purdue (at New York City), W 66-58

NEXT FIVE GAMES:
Nov. 25 vs. Montana State, 3 p.m.
Nov. 30 at Kansas (Kansas City, MO), 5 p.m.
Dec. 8 vs. Grambling, 1 p.m.
Dec. 12 at Portland State, 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 16 vs. Chicago State, 4 p.m.
(All Times Pacific)

STATISTICAL LEADERS:
Total Points: Devon Collier (62)
Scoring Average: Devon Collier (15.5)
Field Goals Made: Three tied with 19
Field Goals Attempted: Ahmad Starks (49)
Field Goal Percentage: Eric Moreland (60.0)
3-Point Field Goals: Ahmad Starks (10)
Free Throws: Devon Collier (24)
Rebounds: Eric Moreland (42)
Assists: Ahmad Starks (12)
Turnovers: Joe Burton (14)
Fouls: Eric Moreland (12)
Blocks: Eric Moreland (9)
Steals: Ahmad Starks (6)


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