Washington State last faced Oregon State coming off of a win driven by an absurdly good offensive night. The Cougs will be doing the same on Thursday in Corvallis (7 p.m., Pac-12 Networks), but this time they'll no doubt be hoping to avoid the same offensive drop-off.
Using a zone that welcomes 3s before hard closeouts cause difficult shots, the Beavers have featured one of the top defenses in the Pac-12. Oregon State allows teams to hoist from deep as much as possible, but it defends the shots well. That's exactly what happened when these two teams last met.
In that game, WSU shot more 3s (25) than 2s (23), and made just 20 percent from beyond the arc. The team's 3-point specialists, Brett Boese and Dexter Kernich-Drew, found plenty of looks. Boese took nine 3s, making just two. Meanwhile, Kernich-Drew put up seven shots, including four 3s, in just 10 minutes of playing time.
Basically, Oregon State was getting exactly what it wanted.
But one weakness WSU failed to exploit in the first match-up was OSU's propensity for sending opponents to the free throw line. The Beavs are 11th in free throw rate allowed in Pac-12 play, while the Cougars are tops in free throw rate. WSU was slightly below average in free throw rate in its loss to Oregon State.
When the Cougs have the ball, it will be a solid offense facing a strong defense. But when Oregon State has the ball, it will be the league's worst offense against the league's worst defense.
The Beavers got the better of that end of the court in Pullman, scoring 1.09 points per possession, well above the 0.91 they have scored overall against Pac-12 competition.
Part of the reason Oregon State did so well is because WSU doesn't force many turnovers, something the Beavers struggle with against every other team. With those extra chances, OSU was able to find plenty of excellent looks, making it a great shooting night for a team that is 10th in the Pac-12 in effective field goal percentage.
Even if the Cougs don't play better defense, there's a solid chance Oregon State doesn't hit open jumpers at the rate it did in the last meeting. If not, WSU is going to have to ramp it a lot more on the offensive end.
How? Aggressivness is key. The Cougs were all-too-happy to play OSU's 3-point game last time out. This time, Washington State needs to press the issue and take some chances, battle their way into the lane and let the Beavers foul.
All that is easier said than done, but teams have done it against Oregon State. What teams haven't done much against the Beavers is shoot the ball well from the outside. If the Cougs stick with the longball again, it could be another frustrating offensive night.