03 February 2011
OSU is looking to rebound this weekend, but it won't be easy with the No. 20 Washington Huskies traveling to Corvallis on Thursday and the Washington State Cougars visiting on Saturday.
The Beavers suffered two disappointing losses in California last weekend, downed by Cal, 85-57, and Stanford, 70-56, and it's safe to say that coach Craig Robinson's team has not lived up to it's own aspirations this season. On Tuesday, Robinson reminded reporters that turning around a program like OSU's takes time and patience.
"We feel like we're heading in the right direction," Robinson explained. "As long as each year our recruiting keeps getting better, and we feel like we're doing that, eventually we can get there."
Help In The Paint: In non-conference play, the Beavers' primary problems were mostly defensive, as OSU's 2-3 and 1-3-1 zones were ineffective, costing the team several winnable games against small but quick, good-shooting teams. Robinson adjusted defensively, but the team's lack of a dominant presence in the paint is hurting the Beavers on both ends of the floor in the Pac-10. Sophomore posts Angus Brandt and Joe Burton combined to shoot just 3-19 against Cal and Stanford, making life difficult for the Beavers' young perimeter players. Both Burton and Brandt will improve and may become reliable scorers next season, but if that doesn't happen, Robinson has 6-foot-9 Daniel Gomis, a senior at Oak Hill Academy in Virginia, suiting up next fall, and 6-foot-9 Maika Ostling coming to campus in fall 2012. Ostling, from Dayton, Oregon, is the No. 22 center in his class. From near and far, help is on the way.
Young Guards Inconsistent: Beavers' leading scorer Jared Cunningham (14 points per game), a Bay Area native, struggled from the field on last week's road trip. Robinson said it's tough for players to return home and play well.
"He played well when he went home last year," Robinson recalled. "But this year I thought he just pressed a little bit. But it's understandable because we weren't playing well as a team, and he was really trying to help us out."
Freshman guard Ahmad Starks was blanked against Cal, going 0-3 from the floor, but he came back with a career high 17 on 6-13 against Stanford. Robinson said it's "what a freshman does," but that "a light bulb when on for him a week prior, and I'm hoping that he can keep that up because that would take a lot of pressure off us."
Starks' shooting range and ability to drive and pass should open up the floor for his teammates, both on the perimeter and in the paint.
Collier Steadily Improving: Freshman forward Devon Collier had a career game against Cal, scoring 14 points while grabbing 6 rebounds and swatting 3 shots, and Robinson was happy to talk up Collier's toughness and maturity.
"He's been in a lot of situations that are very similar to this, and I don't mean the games, I mean practice," Robinson said at Tuesday's press conference. "[Collier is] very used to my style of coaching because it's very similar to what he had in high school, whereas I don't think (freshmen guards) Ahmad (Starks) and Roberto (Nelson) have had the same style."
Unique learning curves are all part of the slow progress being made by Robinson's young team.
"It takes some getting used to when we point out more negatives than positives, but I think that's what you have to do when you're building a program."
Return to Gill: One of the first things a young team must do if it wants to improve is win at home. In Pac-10 play, the Beavers are 3-2 at home and 0-4 on the road, and OSU will need a hometown advantage to contain the inside-outside Washington threat in forward Matt Bryan-Amaning and guard Isaiah Thomas. Bryan-Amaning had 24 points and 15 rebounds in Washington's 103-72 win over OSU on Jan. 8 in Seattle, and Thomas chipped in 19 points and 8 assists. If OSU can play lockdown defense in the paint on Thursday, the Beavers have a shot at an upset. If not, it could be lights out early in Gill Coliseum.
photo: ethan erickson
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