CORVALLIS -- Simply put, the Beavs were outplayed. A high octane Arizona offense came out and made a statement early, and from the starting whistle, it felt like the Beavers were in a cruel came of catch up. What is more concerning – the relative thinness of the Beaver depth chart, or the fact that OSU has lost three consecutive home games at the inception of conference play?
Still, OSU still played with a lot of grit in this loss. With the exception of dealing with the whole, 'We have (maybe) nine active players, four of whom are capable of scoring,' issue facing the Oregon State basketball squad, they put together a solid effort against No.4 Arizona (15-1, 3-1) for the majority of the game.
But depth continues to be an issue for Craig Robinson’s boys – no matter how many breaks one gives Joe Burton, Roberto Nelson and Ahmad Starks, the team still suffers. This was particularly evident in the paint against Arizona. The Beavs are currently sans Eric Moreland and Angus Brandt, two of the teams primary board hogs.
With Olaf Schaftenaar, Devon Collier and Burton offering decent size to the mix of orange and white jerseys, shouldn’t the Beavs be fine, or at least marginally effective? Not so far.
OSU ended the night with grabbing 34 total rebounds as a squad, just three shy of the number posted by their opponents. However, Saturday night’s contest was the first of the three conference games held at Gill in which the Beavs actually showed some moxy when it came to snagging boards in the clutch.
The issue seems to lie with Burton and Collier spending more time at the top of the key than in the paint. Granted, the Beavers sort of found their footing in the perimeter game against Arizona, sinking 5-13 from beyond the arch. But three of those buckets belonged to Starks (18 points, three assists, two steals), and mild success on the outer edges is only masking a major dilemma facing the Beavers right now.
OSU currently lacks any real presence in the paint on offense. With Moreland and Brandt out of the picture, their interior game has less weight to it than a feather in a hurricane.
And it hurt them against ‘Zona. OSU tried to level the playing field with some skilled ball control, quick passes and drives intended to pull fouls from the ‘Zona defenders (Arizona had 22 personal fouls, 13 of those in the first half).
And it worked for the first 20 minutes - OSU went in at the halftime buzzer down by just eight.
Then the second half rolled around and the common theme of the last two contests reared its ugly head immediately – the Beavs got tired, their ball handling got sloppier and guys like Collier, Nelson and Starks looked just plain overworked. The Beavs shot below 40 percent in both field goals and three point attempts for the evening, partially due to the fact that the majority of their offensive success was relegated to the three point attempts and some prayers from inside the key.
The Beavs scraped together two, maybe three, successful fast break attempts Saturday night, and fell victim to a wealth of missed opportunities for easy layups because Arizona outclassed them in terms of depth and size.
Burton (15 points, eight rebounds and four assists) is tall and strong – but he isn’t quick down low and he’s not a guy who will sky over the opposition. Collier on the other hand has the agility and physicality to make an impact in the paint and he proved that on Saturday. But seeing as how he spends a solid 20 minutes of each game scooting around the perimeter trying to make magic happen, it seems unlikely he’ll make an impact where the Beavs need it most – under the net.
OSU – Collier closed out the night with the most rebounds for the Beavs with 15. He also put up 13 points and had two blocks.
OSU – Olaf Schaftenaar is starting to find his touch when it comes to shooting, after building a brick house during the last two contests (Oregon, ASU). Tonight, he pulled through for seven points, three of which came from a crisp shot beyond the arc.