Washington State guard DaVonte Lacy didn’t play in first meeting, averaging 27 points in last 4 games.
Less than three weeks ago, the Oregon State men’s basketball team was better than .500 in conference after a win over No. 23 UCLA.
Three games later, the Beavers are 5-7 in conference after losses to Arizona State, Arizona and then Oregon in the Civil War.
The good news for OSU is that the upcoming games are against Washington State — a team the Beavers beat on the road earlier this year — and Washington, which took a six-point win against the Beavers.
Oregon State (13-11, 5-7 Pac-12) will return to Gill Coliseum at 7 p.m. Thursday to face the Cougars (9-16, 2-11) to kick off the third-to-last week of the regular season.
“I don’t want to get ahead of myself so we’re just focusing on Washington State,” said head coach Craig Robinson. “That’s a game I think we can win. We played well against them at their place and we play better when we’re at home, so it feels like we have a real good chance to win.”
Should the Beavers beat WSU and UW to reach 7-7 in conference play, the deciding game to surpass the .500 mark again would be against the only team lower than WSU in the Pac-12 standings: the 1-11 USC Trojans.
It’s easy to say that the Cougars have been slumping.
WSU does have two mini-upsets over a pair of 6-7 Pac-12 teams in Utah and Washington.
Two of the Cougars’ losses have been in overtime, including an 80-76 defeat to California.
“You can’t take these teams for granted,” said junior forward Eric Moreland. “They’re playing better right now. They’ve got their top scorer back.”
WSU’s leading scorer is junior guard DaVonte Lacy, who missed the first OSU game and more than half the Pac-12 season due to injury.
He returned two games after the OSU matchup and has dropped 30 points twice in his last four games, including a 39-point outburst against Cal.
“He’s just such a prolific scorer,” Robinson said. “If you can stop him, you can do a lot to stop (WSU).”
Robinson added that having to play Lacy will keep the Beavers from overlooking Washington State.
“It’s almost better that Lacy is back to give us something to worry about and not be cocky about,” Robinson said. “This is a different team with Lacy in there.”
The 6-foot-4 WSU guard is averaging 27 points in his last four games, though the Cougars have been unable to win a conference game on the road in seven tries this season.
The Beavers, on the other hand, have lost only once in Gill Coliseum during Pac-12 play.
“We’ve got six games left and four of them are at home,” Moreland said. “You want to take care of the ones at home. In order to do big things after the season and to get into the best postseason you can, you’ve got to win these last few games.”
The next three weeks will be crucial for an OSU team that is on the verge of equaling the most conference wins through 13 games since 1993.
“In the past, (February) has seemed long because we weren’t relevant,” Robinson said. “It certainly doesn’t feel like the season is long yet — we’re hoping that it’s long.”
Of the last six games, the WSU contest will be one of the most winnable, considering the first two contests of March will come against ranked teams in No. 23 UCLA and No. 4 Arizona.
After the Civil War loss Sunday, the Beavers will have another chance to beat a team they defeated in the first round of Pac-12 play.
“It’s that time of the year — the homestretch,” said freshman guard Hallice Cooke. “I feel like we have to bring it all together now. ... If we do, we have the talent to go deep in the Pac-12 Tournament and I feel we can win it.”
Josh Worden, sports reporter
On Twitter @WordenJosh