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Even more than you need to know about the Beavs vs. Cougs + game thread

Washington State aims for a perfect weekend against Oregon State.

WSU Cougars Oregon State basketball preview game time TV schedule
How could they possibly hear him through two layers of fabric? He simply must pull that mask down to yell.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington State Cougars are going for a pair of sweeps—a weekend road sweep and a season sweep—when they visit the Oregon State Beavers on Saturday afternoon (3 pm PT, Pac-12 Networks). The Cougs took the first game over OSU this season, way back in early December.

That game was a defensive grind, with WSU eking out a 59-55 victory. Both teams are playing a little differently than they did back then, and both are getting more efficient production from their leading scorers.

Let’s look at the players and trends that will impact the Cougs vs. Beavs, Part 2 (or 2 Cougs 2 Beavs, or WSU and OSU’s Bogus Journey, or Cougs vs. Beavs 2: Electric Boogaloo, or Cougs vs. Beavs: The Beavs Strike Back, or Cougs and Beavs: First Blood Part II, or **mic cuts out**).

When Oregon State has the ball...

Ethan Thompson dominates the ball for Oregon State. He takes the most shots, uses the most possessions, and also assists at a high rate. Thompson is a versatile scorer that shoots 3s at high enough frequency and makes them enough to keep defenders honest. He’s happy to pull up in the midrange and draws contact well.

Shutting Thompson down can throw Oregon State’s offense out of whack. If he scores efficiently, the Beavs tend to do the same overall. Last time out against WSU, Noah Williams and Isaac Bonton combined to shut Thompson down—he was just 3-11 from the floor for nine points and logged five turnovers.

It would be surprising to see Thompson struggle that much again, so mitigating other players will matter too—especially Jarod Lucas from the outside. The sophomore guard is a knock-down 3-point shooter, hitting 44 percent. He also gets to the free throw line frequently, despite taking just six percent of his shots at the rim. Fouling him is a dangerous game—as he has hit 93 percent of his free throws.

He made just 1 of 7 from deep against WSU last time out, but don’t expect him to struggle that much again. One way to slow Lucas down is to force him off the line and into the midrange—he has hit just 29 percent of 2-point jumpers.

On the wing, Zach Reichle is pass-first typically but has a well-rounded scoring game. He’s not great at any one thing but can be a dangerous third or fourth option if his jumper is falling.

Warith Alatishe is an athletic 6’7 power forward who has made highlight reels multiple times this season. He’s most dangerous on the offensive glass—grabbing a league-best 16.1 percent of his teammates’ misses when he is on the floor during Pac-12 play. Efe Abogidi, Dishon Jackson, DJ Rodman, Andrej Jakimoski, or whoever is checking Alatishe needs to locate him on the glass.

Alatishe’s offensive rebounding prowess makes zoning a dangerous game—it will be interesting to see if WSU chooses to do that. The Cougs seem to have the matchups to go man-to-man effectively against the Beavs.

Maurice Calloo backs up Alatishe. The one-time starter has seen his playing time dwindle as the season has progressed. Despite his 6’10 frame, he struggles inside against bigger opponents. However, he can stretch the defense and has hit 40 percent from 3-point range.

Head coach Wayne Tinkle uses a heavy rotation at the center position. Either 7’1 Roman Silva or 6’10 Dearon Tucker will get the start, but both will play along with 6’8 Rodrigue Andela. Each brings a different skillset—Silva is the best finisher inside, while Tucker draws fouls at a high rate, and Andela is a highly effective offensive rebounder.

Overall, the Beavs have posted the worst effective field goal percentage in Pac-12 play, and that’s largely driven by hitting 2-pointers at just a 45 percent clip. Oregon State has also struggled to reach the foul line against league opponents, and despite Alatishe, they are just middling in offensive rebounding.

But the Beavs don’t turn it over much and have shot well from beyond the arc—and have increased the frequency with which they take 3-pointers. To slow down Oregon State, the Cougs need to force the Beavers off the 3-point line, locate Alatishe at all times, and limit penetration from Thompson and Reichle.

When WSU has the ball...

Oregon State’s defense has been poor overall in Pac-12 play, giving up 1.07 points per possession (10th). Any success has largely been driven by 3-point defense. The Beavs allow the lowest 3-point percentage in the conference, despite allowing the 9th-fewest 3-point attempts per field goal attempt. Tinkle has played the 3-point lottery and has done well.

Outside of the 3-point defense, Oregon State does block shots well—Alatishe is the primary rim protector. However, that has not led to a good 2-point defense, where OSU allows Pac-12 teams to shoot 53 percent inside the arc. Across the entire season, opponents are hitting 61 percent of their shots at the rim (239th nationally).

The Beavs are also 11th in free throw rate allowed during Pac-12 play, 10th in defensive rebounding rate, and 10th in turnover rate forced. The last stat might not matter—it seems WSU will turn the ball over against anyone at this point, despite their prior numbers. The Cougs haven’t dipped below a 20 percent turnover rate in any game since Jan. 2 against Arizona.

However, Oregon State’s free throw rate allowed and defensive rebounding rate are encouraging. WSU is playing larger lineups since they last faced the Beavs, and that has allowed them to capitalize on teams that struggle grabbing defensive rebounds. With Alatishe often hunting a blocked shot, there will be opportunities for Abogidi, Jackson, and Vova Markovetskyy to grab offensive boards.

Look for WSU to work the ball inside in this one, and play some tip drill with offensive rebounds searching for some easy buckets and points at the free throw line. Also, Bonton is probably gonna shoot better than he did against the Beavs last time (2 of 11 on 2s and 2 of 7 on 3s).

The Bottom Line

Both teams are shooting better from the outside than when they first met in December, so this probably won’t be the same low-scoring grind that game was—but it will still likely be a grind because Oregon State does play at the second-slowest pace in Pac-12 play.

When shots don’t fall, rebounding will be a key factor for WSU, particularly on the offensive end. If the Cougs can create second chances, they really could be in line for a much more efficient day.

Overall, the battle on the inside is where WSU should have an advantage—but the Cougar guards' defensive capabilities could really catapult them to victory. If Williams, Bonton, and Ryan Rapp can slow down Thompson, that makes everything else easier.

Thanks to homecourt advantage, KenPom predicts Oregon State to win 42 percent of simulations with an average score of 66-64. Like the first matchup, this should be a close one, and one or two random factors could swing it either way.