Column: Game notes, update on suspensions
Published: Monday, January 14, 2013
Updated: Monday, January 14, 2013 01:01
Well, after what happened on Thursday — the suspensions of sophomore forward Eric Moreland and freshman guard Victor Robbins, Oregon’s upset of No. 4 Arizona — you can’t possibly say you were surprised by Saturday’s result at Gill Coliseum.
Arizona 80, OSU 70.
If anything, it was probably closer than you expect.
You have to be impressed with the heart and desire OSU displayed, particularly in the first half. Arizona was just better, plain and simple.
It was a small step in the right direction for a team that’s had an unfortunate start to the conference season — though this program is past the point of moral victories.
News, notes and observations from the game…
Saturday marked the Beavers’ second consecutive game without Moreland and Robbins.
Here’s what we know:
• Robbins will miss one more game (Thursday vs. UCLA), and will be allowed to play Saturday vs. USC.
• Moreland will not play against UCLA. Robinson is expected to reveal the full extent of Moreland’s suspension today.
• It’s up to Robinson how long Moreland’s suspension lasts.
• The incidents that led to Moreland and Robbins’ suspensions were not related.
It sounds like Moreland won’t be out much longer, and a return for the USC game seems plausible. Because it’s Robinson’s call, it sounds like it truly was a “violation of team rules” — as opposed to an NCAA infraction, or legal trouble, so that’s good news.
Effect of suspensions:
The Beavers were only outrebounded by Arizona by six — they were outrebounded by ASU by 14 — but UA did rack up 13 key second-chance points, so the absence of Moreland’s 11.1 rebounds per game was felt once again.
Robbins’ suspension probably seems insignificant to casual fans, since he had only played in nine of 14 games prior to being suspended, but OSU could have used him against Arizona. With Moreland out, we’re seeing more three-guard lineups, and without Robbins, Robinson has only four scholarship guards at his disposal.
“We could have used Vic [Robbins] today when Challe [Barton] got in foul trouble,” Robinson said after the game. “In the first half Roberto [Nelson] wasn’t on all cylinders, so we could have used Vic [then] as well.”
Barton fouled out in only 13 minutes of action.
Speaking of Barton, I think Moreland’s suspension could potentially help the Beavers in the long run because it gives guys like Barton and freshman Langston Morris-Walker a chance to play significant minutes and gain some confidence.
Barton played arguably his best game as a Beaver on Thursday, and Morris-Walker followed suit on Saturday.
There was one sequence midway late in the first half that stood out to me in regards to Morris-Walker. He knocked down a well-contested baseline jumper after creating just enough space for himself, and then two defensive possessions later he dove on the floor for a loose ball and tapped it to Starks, who threw it up the court to Collier for a dunk.
Distribution of minutes:
As much as I liked what Morris-Walker did on Saturday, you know the season isn’t going as planned when he’s getting more minutes than Roberto Nelson.
Morris-Walker played a career-high 24 minutes, while Nelson played just 21, his least since logging 20 against Montana State on Nov. 25.
This isn’t as much about Morris-Walker as it is Nelson, the guy who Robinson said was “easily” the Beavers’ best player back in October. If he’s going to be “the guy” — he’s shown that ability, albeit sporadically — then give him the chance to play his way out of a funk when he’s in one.
He scored 15 points on Saturday, but three of his four field goals came late in the second half with the game pretty much decided.
“It felt like [Nelson] was having an off day, and I didn’t want him to feel like he had to try to force it,” Robinson said. “When I took him out in the first half, both Challe and Langston were playing great, and I didn’t want to take them out because they were defending. At that time, we needed defense and didn’t need scoring.”
I imagine this game was an anomaly, and Nelson will get his usual 30 minutes next game. If not, this topic will need revisiting, because sometimes you need to let your best players loose and live with the result.
Two sequences stood out to me in particular that changed the momentum of the game:
• With 7:24 remaining in the first half, Collier missed the front end of a 1-and-1. Two Arizona possessions later, the Wildcats got three offensive rebounds and Solomon Hill ended up hitting a 3-pointer to give UA a four-point lead. On OSU’s next possession, Collier once again missed the front end of a 1-and-1. That adds up to a seven-point swing.
• Early in the second half, with OSU trailing by eight, Joe Burton got a steal and passed it ahead to Nelson, who missed a very makeable layup. On Arizona’s ensuing possession, Mark Lyons airballed a 3-pointer right to Brandon Ashley, who snatched it out of the air and laid it in. Instead of a six-point game, it became a 10-point game.
Those are plays you have to make when you’re trying to upset the No. 4 team in the country.
I think a nice little road trip — to Los Angeles, far away from Gill Coliseum — is just what the doctor ordered. More on that later this week.
Grady Garrett, managing editor