The Washington State Cougars look to bounce back from a pair of blowouts in the Bay Area when they face the Oregon State Beavers at Friel Court on Wednesday night (7 p.m. PT, Pac-12 Network). The Beavers are coming off a win over rival Oregon on Sunday, the second conference victory of the year for OSU after beating Stanford the week prior.
Oregon State has lived off hot shooting for most of the year. The Beavers have hit 53 percent from beyond the arc against Pac-12 opponents, helping it to the second best effective field goal percentage in league play (54 percent).
Roberto Nelson leads the way from 3-point range, taking a team-high 77 3s and knocking down 39 percent of them. When teams pay too much attention to Nelson, freshman Hallice Cooke can make them pay. He has buried 55 percent of his 3-pointers on the season.
Add in OSU's ability to get to the line, which Nelson also does well, and the Beavers have one of the more efficient offenses in the Pac-12.
Defense is another story for the Beavs. The root of their issues is an inability to force turnovers. Oregon State is last in turnover percentage and steal percentage during league play. Former OSU star Jared Cunningham's defensive abilities were sometimes downplayed (by myself included) because he racked up steals in OSU's 1-3-1 trapping zone, but it appears he had a unique ability to take the ball away. The Beavers have struggled to force turnovers since his departure.
Thanks to being at home, WSU is actually a slight favorite against Oregon State by KenPom's numbers. If WSU is going to win, it's going to have to perform much better on defense than it did last weekend. OSU has the players to capitalize if Washington State struggles and leaves men open.
If the Cougs can slow down the Beavers, there is certainly the prospect for a more efficient offensive day of their own. WSU has turned the ball over on 21 percent of possessions in league play, while Oregon State has forced turnovers on just 12 percent. Just having those few extra attempts at the basket should bump the Cougars up a little. '
Washington State has played better in its semi-home and home games. It nearly beat a full strength Colorado team in Spokane and took down a good Utah squad in Pullman. If the Cougs can keep up that better home play, especially in halfcourt defense, then this is a game that they have a real shot to win.