The Washington State Cougars are set to take on the 3-24 Oregon State Beavers in Corvallis tonight. Following a disappointing split of the Apple Cup series, the Cougs are looking to end the season on a hot streak by beating the Oregon schools. WSU has had an up-and-down season, seemingly never putting everything together, but they have a chance to end the regular season strong and enter the Pac-12 tournament on a hot streak.
The game will tip-off at 8 p.m. PT from Gill Coliseum in Corvallis. The game can be watched on ESPNU or ESPN.com (with a cable subscription).
The Beavers have had the season from hell this year after apparently selling their soul to the devil for a miraculous run in March Madness last season. They have lost 14 straight games and have only won one game in the Pac-12. While they’ve had their share of blowouts, a lot of these losses have been heartbreakingly close. They lost to two tournament teams, Wake Forest and USC, by only three in overtime, and they’ve lost to Oregon and Cal by two. It has been a tough season for the Beavers, but they are slightly better than their record and they should not be underestimated by the Cougs.
Oregon State Beavers
The Beavers are not a horrific offense, but they do have a lot of weaknesses on that end. They are 158th in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency, which is better than you’d expect for a three-win team. Their biggest strength is that they avoid turnovers. They do this in a similar way to how teams like UCLA and WSU avoid turnovers: By playing a lot of point-to-point ball and not passing at a high-level, as shown by them ranking 271st in assist percentage. They are also great at not getting blocked, though that is mostly because they rely on jump-shooting rather than rim attempts. Overall, they are not a good offense, but they have their strengths, and they could get hot.
OSU will run some specific actions, but almost all of their sets end in some sort of isolation. Here, they set the isolation up with a chin play and an away screen, but it is just a simple iso drive in the end.
Here is another example of that same idea. They set up a pistol play, but the action is only there to get the spacing a specific play and let the Beaver guard isolate on the wing. They have some off-ball principles and here they work to create a good look.
They start a lot of their actions with pindowns. They use these screens almost how some teams would use an Iverson cut: To create a one-on-one matchup on the wing with a big down low to receive a dump off.
Here, they use the pindown and show some of their off-ball principles. Jarod Lucas sets a pindown, hangs in the paint for just a second, but relocates when the drive starts. This is to keep the defense occupied and make defenders choose in situations they are not always comfortable with.
Oregon State does run a healthy amount of pick-and-roll and it is a somewhat effective play for them. Their spacing is generally solid and they have solid roll-men, but they can get overzealous and good defenses make them work hard to get good looks out of these actions.
They’ll also run some early offense sets to try and take advantage of an unset defense. This is a simple drag screen on the wing, and it gets them a decent look.
Oregon State’s defense is pretty much a disaster. They do not have any strengths to point to on that end beyond forcing teams to take large chunks of the shot clock before attempting a shot, but they do not force turnovers, they don’t rebound well, and they don’t affect shots around the rim. They allow opponents to shoot a staggering 55% from two-point range — 340th in the nation in that stat — which is indicative of a major lack of rim protection. They are 301st in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency and just generally a complete mess on that end of the floor.
The Beavers will mix up their scheme on ball-screens based on which big is involved in the action. If Roman Silva or Maurice Calloo is guarding the big and the guard wants to go over the screen, they will hard hedge and recover to try and prevent an advantage.
If the guard wants to go under, Oregon State will deep catch the ball-screen. If Warith Alatishe is guarding the big, they are also likely to deep catch, but they will sometimes switch or hard hedge with him also.
They tend to guard as many actions as possible straight-up, without a double team or help defense. Here, there’s an advantage in the post, but they trust their smaller defender to handle it because they do not want to give up an open look from deep.
Oregon State will occasionally pull out a 2-3 zone just to muck things up and make the offense work to get some buckets. They don’t tend to stay in it for long stretches, but they do go to occasionally if the opponent is on a run.
Players to Watch:
Jarod Lucas is the Beavers’ leading scorer and a true shooting guard. He is most known for his stop on a dime deceleration and pull-up shooting. He will take some audacious threes, early in the shot clock, in semi-transition, and with hands in his face. He takes 6.8 threes a game and he shoots them at a 38.4% clip. He is not a great passer or defender, but he can get hot in an instant and keep Oregon State in games all on his own.
Warith Alatishe was considered one of the best players in the Pac-12 coming into the year, but he has fallen short of those expectations. Still, the 6’8 forward is an elite rebounder for his size, a good help defender, and a versatile offensive player. The senior broke out during OSU’s impressive run through March last season, and he still has some latent NBA upside that might get him looks.
Dashawn Davis has been the most consistent player on the Beavers’ roster this season. He is a 6’2 guard and JUCO transfer who is efficient and effective as a scorer, distributor, and defender. He had a huge game against USC that almost secured them a major upset and his overall two-way play has been one of the few bright spots for the Beavers.
Washington State Cougars
Players to Watch:
Tyrell Roberts has had a rough stretch through recent games. He scored a combined 12 points in the Apple Cup series; against the LA schools, he scored well but had more turnovers than assists; and he had his worst game of the season against Oregon. Oregon State is the type of opponent Roberts should be able to get some confidence against. OSU does not have great point of attack defender and Roberts should be able to get wherever he wants to score. He also needs to play more within the offense, as he is far too often rejecting screens and playing outside of the offensive sets, and it ruins the flow for himself and the team around him. Playing within the system and getting his buckets that way could help him build a rhythm.
Dishon Jackson has been solid in his minutes since coming back from injury, and Oregon State is exactly the type of team he could break out against. Oregon State has a couple of big, bruising frontcourt players that Jackson could push around without getting fouls called on him, and he also will be able to bully with the occasional switch. The Cougs missed Jackson a lot more than people realized during his injury, and the offense has had fewer long droughts since he’s come back because he acts as a perfect pressure release valve. When nothing is working, dump it into Jackson because he’ll get at least a somewhat efficient shot or some free throws.
Mouhamed Gueye has had his ups and downs, but it has been an undeniably successful freshman season for the big man. He has been one of the best defensive players in the conference and his offense has some incredible highs. This last week of the season is going to be interesting to monitor for him because this is where he might make his push to get looked at for the NBA draft. No matter what, Gueye is someday going to get a chance at the league. 6’11 dudes who move like him and flash any type of shooting always will, but he is not the sure thing many NBA teams like to draft. However, the game against UW in Pullman caught the eye of a few scouts and they might be watching the box scores this week. The chances he ends up getting drafted are slim, but there is a chance. It is likely he ends up at least doing the CJ Elleby, where he “declares” to test the waters and get NBA feedback with the intention of coming back to school. The Beavers are not great at guarding roll-men and he could get some highlight dunks and finishes as well as continuing to flash his elite defense around the rim and on the perimeter.
What to Watch For:
Defensive intensity is something that tends to fall off when you are expecting to rout a team. Oregon State is not a team that scares WSU, but that doesn’t mean they can completely disregard them. Pressuring their guards, forcing turnovers, and protecting the rim are all huge keys for WSU in this one and it would be nice to force the poor Oregon State offense into an outlier bad performance for even them. The Cougs have fallen to 3rd in the Pac-12 in defensive efficiency during conference play, and it would be nice to end the season 1st in that metric. That starts with clobbering the Beavers on that end.
Getting into a rhythm is the biggest key for WSU in this game. Oregon State is a bad team by Pac-12 standards, and they are the perfect opponent for WSU to get into a groove against. The game against Oregon at the end of the season is the big test, but the Cougs can’t lose focus and drop games to the Beavers. The Beavers’ defense is perfectly tailored to give WSU the shots they want, and their offense should be stifled by WSU’s elite defense. It would be a major confidence builder to go to Corvallis and win by a ton.
Question of the Game:
Will Mouhamed Gueye hit a three?