When Washington State last met Oregon, the two teams put on one of the best shows of the year with a 108-99 overtime victory that was the Cougars' third in a row. Since that contest, WSU has won just once over a six-game stretch book-ended by losses to Oregon State that could hardly be more different than that OT thriller.
The promise of fast-paced, defense-optional basketball will return when the Cougs visit Oregon on Sunday afternoon (4 p.m., Pac-12 Networks). The Ducks rank third in Pac-12 play in tempo, while WSU ranks fourth. Oregon places 10th in defensive efficiency during league games, while the Cougars are dead last.
It was a 3-point barrage combined with a significant advantage at the foul line that catapulted Washington State to victory in Pullman. The Cougs hit 14 of 24 3s, while going 28 of 37 on free throws.
It's not likely that the Cougars hit 3s at that rate again, but attacking the inside to draw fouls and get to the rim should prove to a fruitful endeavor. Oregon is allowing Pac-12 opponents to hit 53 percent on 2s, last in conference play. The Ducks are also 10th in free throw rate allowed.
The Cougars are going to need that advantage at the free throw line if they are to pull off the win in Eugene. Oregon should have its way with WSU's defense, as the Cougs have struggled to force turnovers, defend 2-pointers and defend 3-pointers. One of the few things that Washington State does well is limit free throw attempts -- probably because the Cougs aren't near the offensive players enough to foul.
Oregon's biggest weakness on offense is its inside game and getting to the free throw line. Just about the only Duck to get to the free throw line regularly is Elgin Cook, and the other key big, Jordan Bell, takes free throws at a low rate. Add in that Joseph Young, the primary scorer, prefers the outside and Oregon's roster isn't built to draw fouls.
This game will likely come down to Washington State hoping the Ducks miss enough open shots (its best defense) and then getting to the free throw line enough on the other end.
The edge overall does go to Oregon because it is better on both ends of the floor, despite WSU's win in Pullman. But regardless of who comes out on top, the game will be low on turnovers and the winner is going to approach 90 points, if not 100, again.