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February 15, 2014
Triple Threat: Civil War
The trip to Arizona was as challenging as we all expected. The road swing, against two quality opponents proved to be too much for an OSU team hoping to build-on an upset of UCLA. The Beavers battled a tough ASU team on Thursday night before falling in overtime 86-82. Coach Robinson’s team played well enough to win, but as has been the case, was unable to get key stops or make enough adjustments to beat a quality road opponent. On Sunday, OSU was able to hang around with #2 Arizona for a half, before the Cats superior paint play, rebounding, and defense put the Beavers away 76-54. The 2013-14 Beavers stayed true to form in their ability to compete and with their inability to complete on the road.
As Beaver Nation has come to expect, their talented roster came to play Thursday night against a very good ASU team. However, the Beavers were unable to hold-on to a three point halftime lead and fell to the host Sun Devils 86-82 in overtime.
Craig Robinson’s game plan was well executed through 20 minutes (save the final minute of the half, when Jahii Carson got to the paint & the free throw line). The Beavers man-to-man defense was able to limit ASU to 31% shooting from the field and one of seven from three-point range (ASU is one of the league’s best.) OSU’s backcourt did their best to keep Carson and Jermaine Marshall in check, but relied heavily on quality help defense from their frontline players (Moreland, Brandt, and Collier). Even with star guard Roberto Nelson under wraps (two first half points), OSU took control at the 14 minute mark and rode their defense to a 29-26 halftime lead.
Unfortunately, the Beavers could only keep the Sun Devil’s high scoring backcourt in check for a half. The second half featured a Jahii Carson parade to the paint (and foul line) and a resurgent shooting performance from Penn State-transfer Jermaine Marshall (23 points, seven in overtime).
Roberto Nelson did all he could after the break, scoring 24 second half points, but it wasn’t enough. Too many OSU turnovers, seven blocks from the new PAC 12 all-time leader (Jordan Bachynski), and an inability to make timely plays (or strategic moves) cost OSU in the final stanza.
The Beavers, who outrebounded ASU by two, continue to have only one scoring threat off of the bench (despite digging four to six players deep on most nights) in Devon Collier. Collier provided a key six point run to cut a seven point ASU lead late and Roberto Nelson continued clutch play sending the game to overtime late, but in overtime it was the Sun Devils who would take care of the basketball and make key stops. The loss would drop the Beavers into a tie for seventh place (at 5-5).
Oregon State visited a struggling, but still class of the PAC 12 team in Arizona on Sunday afternoon. It would be only fitting that OSU would make it game for a half and that the Cats would win while displaying their calling card defensive prowess.
The Wildcats (who hadn’t shot 50% in six games), were led by freshman phenom Aaron Gordon (17 points, 11 in the 1st half), who unleashed a rim-barrage to the tune of 40 points in the paint. Coach Robinson and the Beavers tried their best to mix-up defense looks in attempt to keep the Cats away from the cup, but too much athleticism and nearly indefensible put-backs proved to be too much.
On the defense end, Arizona imposed their will, shutting down PAC 12 scoring leader Roberto Nelson (10 points, 3/12 from the field) and holding OSU to 39% shooting as a team. Still, behind a steady efforts from Angus Brandt (14 points) and Devon Collier (10 points) the Beavers only trailed 37-27 at the half.
The second half was all Arizona as Gordon and fellow freshman Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (16 points) attacked the rim and defended the paint. OSU was able to keep Arizona’s top scorer Nick Johnson in check (10 points), but the Wildcats feasted on the offensive glass (15 offensive rebounds for 13 points) and pulled away from OSU mid-way through the half.
Unable to rely on OSU constants, Roberto Nelson and strong rebounding (previously had only been outrebounded once in league play, Arizona beat OSU 39-24 on the backboards), OSU fizzled and the Cats pulled away 76-54. OSU leaves the sunshine at 5-6 and tied for sveneth place, but still searching for a rotation, bench production, and a sidekick for Roberto Nelson in the clutch. While they eye a shot at the top half of a log-jammed league, OSU will regroup in Corvallis before heading to Eugene Sunday for a match-up with the rival Ducks.
LOOKING AHEAD: THE OREGON X-FACTOR
The host Ducks (15-8, 2-8, 41 RPI) are desperately hoping to right their ship after a stellar pre-season has become a devastating string of close losses in their collapsing PAC 12 campaign. OSU fans know the key to their PAC 12 season comes down to their ability to make stops & plays late, win the glass, and get consistent scoring support for Roberto Nelson (be it Moreland, Cooke, or their anemic bench). The Beavers will need to play a great game in Eugene in order to come away victorious. What about the Ducks?
A good barometer for Sunday’s game will be the play of senior forward Mike Moser. The former Grant High, UCLA, and UNLV star came to Eugene with hopes of re-kindling his NBA stock and replacing graduated forwards EJ Singler & Arsalan Kazemi. Moser is not only one of Oregon keys to victory and their X-Factor, but it will be critical that OSU keep him check as they did last month in Corvallis.
During the Duck’s pre-season tear, the versatile forward averaged 15.8 points, 8.2 rebounds, and shot 48.3% from the field in their five “best wins.” While the Ducks have struggled in league losses, Moser has been up and down. In nine league losses, Moser has shot an ice-cold 38% and only averaged 11.3 points. When the Ducks are at their best, he’s performing and giving them a dimension that only he can. Their roster is filled with scoring guards like Joseph Young, Jason Calliste, Damyean Dotson, and even PG Jonathan Loyd (who to me is their other X-factor) who have been streaky.
Moser can score in the paint, transition, on put-backs, and even step-back and knock down a three. When he’s mentally engaged, out foul trouble, and being aggressive, he’s an all-league player. Will that Mike Moser or the one who went a combined two for 11 against UCLA and Arizona show-up Sunday? OSU can help answer that with a strong defensive effort by Eric Moreland (who I expect to match-up with him the most) on Sunday. If Moser is able to have a double-double night and be a focal point on the offense end, you can expect a Ducks win.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Are the Beavers a top half team this year? Are the Ducks really a bottom three or four team? These questions are worth discussing, but better to be played-out on the court. This should make for a hotly-contested match-up Sunday. It might only appeal to the folks in Oregon, but realistically neither team deserves any national spotlight in their current forms. A consistently inconsistent Beaver team has slightly over-achieved their pre-season media expectations and the Ducks have found themselves in a free-fall from what appeared to be a promising season.
Oregon State will need to successfully defend Oregon’s underachieving, but potent stockpile of scoring guards. In addition, the Beavers will need to check the dangerous Mike Moser, hoping to keep him in his slumping PAC 12 mode.
Oregon should have some success throwing some soft zone press looks OSU’s way and the often turnover prone Beaver guards will need to respond. OSU also can’t defend the Ducks playing straight man defense and will need to mix their looks. Basketball junkies should have as much fun watching Robinson and Altman match wits as they will watching two desperate groups of athletes fight for a win. For this week’s prediction check into The Lodge.
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