The Washington State Cougars face the Oregon State Beavers in a rematch of a crucial battle for Zebra Pens last Spring. WSU trounced OSU on the road that day, and they will be looking to do the same without some of the key players from that win.
Roberto Nelson and Ahmad Starks are the players to watch for the Beavers. The Cougars give up a lot of three-point attempts, and they are two of the best shooters in the conference. Nelson is hitting on 43 percent from beyond the arc, while Starks is knocking down 42 percent. Starks will look to continue the tradition of short guys from Oregon schools destroying WSU from long range.
One of the best ways that the Cougs can limit the Beavers may be their ability to limit free throw attempts. Oregon State takes 40 free throws for every 100 field goal attempts, good for 62nd in the nation. The Cougars are holding opponents to a 32 free throw rate. In a game that Pomeroy predicts to be 67 possessions, that could mean a difference of three easy points. The contest is likely to be close, so that could be big.
The Beavs also rely on offense rebounds more than most teams, and the Cougars are among the best in the country on the defensive glass (27th in defensive rebounding percentage).
More good news for WSU is that OSU doesn't force many turnovers, a change from Craig Robinson's earlier teams. Perhaps Jared Cunningham was more than just a system defender, and was actually making a huge difference in terms of creating steals.
If Oregon State can hit their threes, which they have done well at for most of the year, then the Cougars will be in trouble. If the Beavers don't, then an excellent defensive day out of WSU is likely. According to Pomeroy, this is the best shot WSU has at a road win on its remaining schedule. Can they avoid the late-game swoon and steal one in Corvallis?
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