Washington State faces Oregon State for the second time this season tonight at 7 pm Pacific. The first meeting between the two teams ended in a 81-76 WSU victory in Spokane Arena. That game left the Beavers in an 0-2 hole to start the conference schedule. They would continue to struggle over the next few games, including dropping heartbreakers to Stanford and Arizona to fall to 1-5.
OSU has bounced back since then, winning four of their last five games. That run has included a victory at home over UCLA and on the road over rival Oregon. With five of their last seven at Gill Coliseum, Oregon State may be poised to make a move up the Pac-12 standings in the stretch run of conference play.
WSU has not enjoyed the same success, going 3-6 since these last two teams met and losing a key perimeter threat in Faisal Aden. The Cougars are still looking for their first road victory in Pac-12 play.
These two teams appear to be heading in opposite directions and signs point to a Beaver victory and for WSU to continue their losing streak on the road. Will the Cougars come through with a surprising performance once again?
Offense and Defense previews after the jump.OFFENSE
The Beavers are one of the top offenses in the conference. They push the pace, with the 12th fastest tempo in the country, so this game looks to be higher scoring than WSU's games last weekend.
There are a number of players to watch on the OSU offense, but the two most important guys may be Jared Cunningham and Devon Collier. Cunningham is Oregon State's star. He is a slasher who gets to the line frequently (21st nationally in free throw rate) and has a high 2-pt percentage for a guard, making 52% of his shots inside the arc. Collier is the Beavers' most efficient player, with an offensive rating 126.9. That is 6th among players who use at least 20% of their team's possessions. Collier does it all on the inside, as he hasn't taken a single three all year. He makes 63% of his twos and like Cunningham, gets the free throw line often.
Look for Joe Burton to be the the facilitator from the top of the key. Additionally, Coug fans likely won't soon forget Ahmad Starks, who almost single-handedly brought OSU back from a late deficit with a flurry of threes in Spokane.
Oregon State's ability inside the three-point line has carried them offensively all season. They shoot 53% as a team on twos and have the 14th best free throw rate in the nation. Washington State may have used more man against UCLA and USC, but they will probably zone the Beavers again in hopes of clogging the lane.
Without a real shot-blocking presence, WSU is not likely to stop OSU's offense,. The hope is merely to slow it down enough to stay in the game.
Side note: WSU is not currently last in defensive efficiency during Pac-12 play.
/shakes bottle of champaign
/hits self in eye
/still more successful than WSU's defense
Oregon State has been bad on defense in conference play, and that certainly played a big role in their loss to WSU the first time around. The Beavers are 11th of 12 in two of the four factors; effective field goal percentage and offensive rebounding percentage.
Opponents have found open shots on the inside and outside against Oregon State. They are giving up 53% on twos and 40% on threes. Brock Motum had a bit of a breakout performance against OSU in Spokane, leading the Cougs with 26 points and 8 rebounds on 10-15 shooting. DaVonte Lacy also lit it up from the perimeter, knocking down 3-5 threes on the way to 18 points. Aden was not a factor, taking just one shot and two free throws in nine minutes.
Even with their struggles, the Beavers can be dangerous on defense because of their ability to create steals. They are first in the Pac-12 in steal percentage and second in opponents' turnover percentage. WSU performed relatively well (compared to Oregon State's other opponents) in the turnover department last time out, and that will be key again to staying close.
Kenpom predicts an 83-74 victory with 76% confidence. Oregon State's high-powered offense may be too much for WSU to overcome on the road, but if they are able to take care of the ball the opportunity is there to come away with a season sweep.