Stuck in a rut, looking for a win
OSU men's basketball has begun Pac-12 play with five losses, play Washington tonight at Gill
Published: Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, January 23, 2013 16:01
After finding no luck in Los Angeles, Oregon State returns to Gill Coliseum Wednesday night in an attempt to get their first Pac-12 win of the year against the University of Washington.
The Huskies (12-6, 4-1 Pac-12) and Beavers (10-8, 0-5) both came into this matchup carrying some disappointment.
Oregon State is mired in a five-game losing streak — its worst to open conference play since 2007-08 — and the Huskies lost their first Pac-12 game on Saturday to Utah at home, 74-65.
The last time these two teams met, the Beavers upset the Huskies in the Pac-12 Tournament last season, which likely prevented Washington from making the NCAA Tournament as a result.
Washington did beat OSU both times in the regular season in 2012, though.
“I hope we don’t go 0-2 before we play them in the Pac-12 Tournament, because we need wins right now,” senior forward Joe Burton said. “We’re 0-5 and we just need to get back to our groove.”
Head coach Craig Robinson doesn’t expect the Huskies to dwell on last year’s loss to Oregon State.
“I expect them to be hungry because they just lost a game ... and they’re a team that has a winning culture,” Robinson said. “And they’re used to winning often so they’re going to come in trying to win, just for the sake of winning.”
Fans should expect to see a lot of deep shots in this game. Oregon State is second in the conference, shooting 36.7 percent from three-point range, while the Huskies are fourth, shooting 35.9 percent.
Freshman guard Langston Morris-Walker is confident the Beavers can stop Washington’s three-point shot.
“They’re a good run and gun team,” Morris-Walker said. “So definitely just try to stop their two shooters on the wings. I know they’re gonna let that thing fly so I’m sure we have enough defense between me and [freshman] Jarmal [Reid] to be able to lock them down.”
Morris-Walker’s confidence has statistics to back it up too. The Beavers are tied for the conference lead in defense against the three ball — only allowing opponents to shoot 31.6 percent against them.
In the Beavers’ last three games, Morris-Walker has seen increased playing time — averaging 19.3 minutes — and Robinson has been pleased with his improvement.
“I think he has turned a corner here,” Robinson said. “He is a terrific defender and ... he was a very big part of our comeback, defensively, against USC. And we’re going to be looking to use him more and more.”
On the other end of the spectrum, junior guard Ahmad Starks has been in a bit of a slump lately. He averaged only 2.5 points per game and shot a collective 20 percent from the field on the Beavers’ LA trip. Against USC, Starks didn’t score and attempted only one shot for the first time in his Oregon State career.
“He shouldn’t have taken just one shot,” Robinson said. “He passed up some shots so I have to work on getting his confidence level back up because, as I’ve said many times, we can’t win a lot of games with Ahmad and Roberto not playing well.”
Still, Starks is second in the conference — behind the Huskies’ C.J. Wilcox — in three-pointers made, averaging 2.39 per game.
Wilcox comes into Corvallis as the Huskies’ leading scorer and tied for second in the Pac-12 with 19.1 points per game.
As noted before, stopping the Huskies’ outside shooting will be key if Oregon State wants to get a victory. Although he isn’t a prolific scorer, Washington center Aziz N’Diaye is a seven-footer and is averaging 9.6 rebounds per game.
Burton knows he’ll have his hands full, but the senior has faced seven-footers before this season and is confident in his abilities.
“Just remember the story of David and Goliath,” Burton said. “I’m David in these matchups.”
The Beavers, as an entire team, are playing the role of David on Wednesday night. It remains to be seen whether or not they will finally be able to get the monkey off their back and pull off the upset.
Alex Crawford, sports reporter