OSU looks to right the ship in L.A.
Published: Thursday, January 17, 2013
Updated: Thursday, January 17, 2013 02:01
The Oregon State men’s basketball team is desperate for a win.
The Beavers (10-6, 0-3 Pac-12) are off to their worst conference start during head coach Craig Robinson’s five-year tenure, and will look to avoid a fourth consecutive loss when they take on the hottest team in the conference, No. 24 UCLA, tonight in Los Angeles.
“There’s always a sense of urgency,” Robinson said. “I think it’s too early to have a sense of desperation, because we’ve only played three [conference] games. So we have 15 more games to play. But going on the road makes it tough, and being shorthanded makes it tough.”
Indeed it will be tough for OSU against a UCLA team that has shaken off early season struggles to win nine straight games, and leads the Pac-12 in scoring offense (78.5 PPG) and field goal percentage (47.8 percent).
Robinson said he is not surprised by the Bruins’ recent success.
“What you have is a program that has great basketball pedigree, a great culture,” Robinson said. “You have a very good coach. You have very good players. You have a very good, brand new arena to play in. It was just a matter of time for them to right the ship.”
Oregon State will still be shorthanded as starting forward Eric Moreland serves the final game of his three-game suspension for violating team rules. Moreland is the second-leading rebounder in the conference at 11.1 per game to go along with 10.8 points per game.
“The double-double is a given, but what you have to remember is he blocks and alters shots,” Robinson said. “Having Eric back is not quite immeasurable, but it’s big.”
Moreland will also help the Beavers’ defense, which is the worst in the Pac-12, giving up 69.4 points per game. The noticeable absence of capable big men on the Beavers’ roster recently — senior center Angus Brandt and redshirt freshman forward Daniel Gomis are out with season-ending injuries — has allowed other teams to outscore OSU 122-86 in the paint in the last three games. Additionally, the Beavers have been outrebounded 134-103 during that span.
When asked how to shore things up defensively, Robinson offered a simple solution.
“Not let the other team score. That’s pretty much it,” Robinson said. “A lot of that has to do with the fact that Eric’s been out, so I’d probably reassess that number, that’s probably not a realistic number as we stand right now. But every day we’re working on being better defensively. I think a lot of that has to do with rebounding.”
Robinson knows the Beavers’ defense will have its hands full with a potent UCLA offense.
“Their personnel are just so dynamic,” Robinson said. “They have two high school All-Americans, and then another kid who was very highly recruited, who are all starting.”
The two McDonald’s All-Americans are true freshmen Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson. Muhammad is second at scoring in the Pac-12 with 18.2 points per game, and freshman teammate Jordan Adams is sixth at 16.4 points. Additionally, UCLA senior guard Larry Drew II leads the Pac-12 in assists at 8.06 per game.
OSU’s coaching staff is sticking to a philosophy they have tried to pound into their players’ heads since last season.
“We are just approaching it one day at a time, like we always have since we’ve gotten here,” Robinson said.
Alex Crawford, sports reporter