There’s no easing into conference play.
Especially not this season.
The Pac-12 schedule for the Oregon State men’s basketball team begins with a bang today when Oregon comes to town for a 7 p.m. tip in Gill Coliseum.
It’s an unusual spot for the Civil War, but the Beavers are excited to start with their rivals.
“We don’t mind it being first, in the middle, at the end,” coach Craig Robinson said. “It’s always nice to have a game where you know there’s going to be a great crowd. It’s a great rivalry, two good teams that are both playing well. So we’re excited.”
It doesn’t get any easier after today with Arizona State and Arizona making the trip to Gill Coliseum.
ASU is 12-2 and the Wildcats are ranked third in the country.
“I think our biggest games are coming in the front part of the season, so we’ve got to try to come hard and take care of business these first couple of weeks and I think we’ll do pretty good in the Pac,” guard Roberto Nelson said.
The Beavers are 10-3 through their nonconference games.
The record is solid and they’ve put together a few strong performances, particularly in the two games in New York City — a close loss to Alabama and a win over Purdue — and a narrow loss to Kansas in Kansas City.
The Beavers had a shaky stretch that led to a home loss to Towson, but came back with a strong win over Texas-Pan American.
“We’re excited about where we’re at, but we still want to work on a few things like defense and communication,” forward Eric Moreland said. “We do a good job on offense but defense we want to get a couple more stops.”
Without Jared Cunningham, the Beavers have settled into an offense by committee. Five players average double figures with Nelson leading the way at 15.8 points a game.
When Angus Brandt was lost for the season during the New York trip, the Beavers were faced with their first major challenge of the season.
“It’s definitely been tough at first having him gone,” Nelson said. “But a lot of people have been picking up their games, Devon (Collier), Eric, Joe (Burton), the whole starting five and the whole team. We’re all rallying around each other and just trying to do it for Angus.”
Moreland has made huge strides this season. He averages 10.9 points a game and is third in the Pac-12 in shooting percentage at .625. Moreland grabs 11.2 rebounds a game, second in the conference.
He is also second in blocked shots at 2.7 a game.
Moreland has seven double-doubles this season and has a streak of four going into today’s game.
His work on the boards is a big reason the Beavers average 40.5 a game, No. 2 in the Pac-12. Oregon is first at 41.1.
The Ducks also spread the wealth on offense, with four players in double figures.
“They distribute the ball really good and each score around the same points (as OSU),” Moreland said.
“They like to run in transition and they’ve got some good depth on their team.”
Damyean Dotson, a 6-foot-5 freshman guard from Houston, leads the team with 11.1 points a game and center Tony Woods adds 11.
Rice transfer Arsalan Kazemi has had an immense impact on the Ducks so far this season. Not only can he score (8.5 ppg) and rebound (10.0, No. 3 in the conference), he also leads the Pac-12 in steals at 2.8 a game.
“I think this year they’re a little more physical,” Robinson said. “I’ve been talking about Kazemi alot. It’s just incredible to see a guy with that kind of production and then Woods is playing better.”
The Beavers can’t forget about E.J. Singler, who can score, has 3-point shooting range and will grab rebounds.
“E.J. Singler’s just one of the best players in the conference,” Robinson said. “You can’t do much because he’s from Oregon and he grew up knowing how important these games were.
“We just have to be solid. We can’t let him get going like he wants to get going. He’s a great shooter, he’s a tough kid, he’s a good defender. We just have to be solid ourselves.”