I made it back to Gill Coliseum on Sunday for the first time since Nov. 10 when the Beavers started off the season with an unfathomable 79-73 loss to Coppin State. Prior to the Civil War game, I wasn’t sure what to expect.
Sure, Oregon was in a swoon, but who knew what Oregon State team would show up to play? But I walked away happy — the Beavers built a big lead, weathered a late Ducks rally, and held on for an impressive 80-72 win.
Here’s three things that stood out to my straining eyes up in the nosebleeds. In my defense, they weren’t bad seats. I mean, two rows behind me sat James Dockery, and he was having a blast. Anyhow . . .
- Man-to-Man Defense: The Ducks shot poorly all game. They shot 37.9 percent from the field and 21 percent from downtown. A lot of that was due to OSU’s defense. The Beavers played man-to-man most of the game and the results were impressive. There was only a handful of wide open shots for the Ducks; most were contested. Most impressively, there only one “Damn it, get out on the shooter” moment that I recall. The Beavers need to start playing man defense the majority of the time. The 1-3-1 is only effective in spurts, and if you have the right players to run it. Also, running different defenses all the time wears on players, and can be overwhelming for inexperienced players. Playing man-to-man defense enables players to rely on their instincts more and not have to worry about over think assignments/positions. It’s about time the Beavers played more man defense. I don’t buy Coach Robinson’s belief that the Beavers were incapable of playing man-to-man in past seasons. Playing man defense is one of those fundamentals that players learn from day one.
- More Moreland: People can say what they want, but they’ve got to stop underestimating Eric Moreland’s impact on the team. There’s any doubt that if he hadn’t been suspended the Beavers would’ve won a few more games. He’s a beast on the glass and his energy on defense is infectious. While he struggled from the field, he still managed 15 points on 11 of 12 shooting from the free-throw line (Where did that come from?), grabbed 13 rebounds, dished out 5 assists, and block 3 shots, one of which ended up on Sports Center. It’s easily the best block I’ve seen since I started watching OSU hoops in the Corey Benjemin era. And while I think he leaves for the NBA, if Moreland does come back next season and works on his offensive game, he could be one of the top big men in the nation, and help the Beavers offset the loss of Roberto Nelson, Angus Brandt, and Devon Collier. The only thing I didn’t like seeing from Moreland on Sunday (besides the 2 of 12 shooting from the field), was the switching on defense that drew him away from the paint. He needs to be down low where if he can’t swat shots, at least alter them. To be fair, that’s probably not all his fault.
- As He Goes, The Beavers Go: Maybe he hasn’t lived up to the hype and let’s face it, defense isn’t his forte, but Roberto Nelson is ABSOLUTELY vital to the Beavers’ offense. Every time he went out of the game for more than a few seconds, the offense sputtered. Despite being double-teamed often and accounted for on just about every possession, Nelson finished with a game-high 22 points on 7 of 13 shooting. Down the stretch, he had two big baskets and had a huge rebound. Moving forward, with the emergence of Hallice Cooke as reliable perimeter ball-hander and scoring threat, I’d like to see Nelson come off screens for shots more, instead of trying to drive and force his way into the lane. Even with Moreland back and Cooke becoming more of a factor, the Beavers need Nelson’s scoring just as much as they did earlier in the season. But shots are getting tougher to come by, so his coaches and teammates need to help Nelson get the ball where he can be efficient.
Overall, the Civil War was great and much-needed victory for the Beavers who are now 10-7 and 2-3 in Pac-12 play. If the Beavers can play like they did Sunday more consistently, they could surprise. And this week is a good one to keep the momentum going, as they take on Washington State on Wednesday and UW on Saturday. But again, especially on just three days rest, which team will show up against the Cougars?
The good news is the Civil War victory proved what many Beavers hoops fans knew all along, this team has the talent to be pretty good. It’s just a matter of putting together for more than one or two games at a time. Maybe this is the week it happens. Go Beavs!