Beavers face scorching hot Sun Devils tonight
Published: Thursday, January 10, 2013
Updated: Thursday, January 10, 2013 01:01
After starting off the Pac-12 schedule on the wrong foot, losing to rival Oregon on Sunday, the Beavers’ season only gets tougher when the Arizona State Sun Devils come to town tonight.
The Sun Devils (13-2, 2-0 Pac-12) — riding a five-game winning streak — started off conference play with wins last weekend over Utah and Colorado down in Tempe, Ariz.
Arizona State is led by redshirt freshman guard Jahii Carson, who is averaging 16.7 points and 5.4 assists per game. Carson had originally committed to Oregon State back in 2011 before changing his mind and deciding to take his talents to the desert. Despite this, OSU coach Craig Robinson isn’t feeling spurned by Carson’s change of heart.
“It’s part of the game when you have somebody who you thought you had, and they end up going somewhere else,” Robinson said to the media on Tuesday. “But there’s no emotion in it. I coach the guys who are in this locker room, and we win or lose together.”
The Beavers (10-4, 0-1) might try to take a page out of Colorado’s book, as the Buffaloes held Carson to a season-worst five points, but still couldn’t escape Tempe with a victory, falling to ASU 65-56.
In addition to Carson, the Beavers will have their hands full with the Sun Devils’ 7-foot-2 big man Jordan Bachynski. Bachynski is first in the Pac-12 and third in the NCAA in blocks, averaging 4.6 per game.
After being outscored 46-26 in the paint by the Ducks on Sunday, stopping ASU’s inside scoring will be a point of emphasis.
One of the reasons for OSU’s vulnerability in the paint is the absence of senior center Angus Brandt, who went down with a torn ACL back on Nov. 16 in a win against Purdue. Brandt’s defense and scoring ability — he’s a big man who can also drain the three ball — aren’t the only things the Beavers miss with him gone.
“With Angus not being on the court, we haven’t had anyone step up and replace him from a leadership standpoint,” Robinson said. “We’ve been trying to find somebody to replace that voice on the court. I can do it as much as I can from the sideline and during practice, but we really need somebody on the court.”
The lack of a clear-cut leader on the court will become a bigger problem for the Beavers as they get deeper into conference play. The games aren’t getting any easier for Oregon State, and bouncing back from losses — especially those like the 13-point loss to the Ducks on Sunday — are crucial if this team wants to make the postseason.
“It was a tough one on Sunday, but I liked the way our guys got right back to work [Monday] getting ready for Arizona State,” Robinson said. “We are really focused on some things in practice to correct our . . . communication, leadership, handling adversity situations.”
If there is any positive point to take from Sunday’s loss, it’s that junior guard Ahmad Starks seems to have finally broken out of his scoring slump that plagued him in December. After averaging only 4.8 points during a five-game stretch beginning Dec. 12 against Portland State, Starks has scored 21 and 22 points in the Beavers last two games, respectively.
His outside shooting ability is key if the Beavers want to get their offense clicking — an offense that was listless against Oregon.
Anyone who follows the Beavers’ basketball program knows Robinson is always the optimist, at least when talking to the media.
He sees this weekend’s games against two good teams (including No. 4 Arizona on Saturday) as a good chance to bounce back, and not as a daunting task for his veteran team.
“The guys looked good [Monday] in practice so I don’t think there are any ill effects yet,” Robinson said. “We are looking forward to another opportunity this week against two undefeated teams.”
Alex Crawford, sports reporter