Preview: ASU at Oregon State

Arizona State is looking to rebound after an embarrassing 73-49 loss in the Pac-12 opener to archrival Arizona. Now the Sun Devils (8-6, 0-1) are heading up north to face the Oregon schools in what is expected to be two evenly-matched contests. They begin their northwest swing Thursday night against Oregon State (9-4, 0-1) at 7 p.m. MT on Fox Sports 1.

The Sun Devils ran into a buzz saw in its conference opener last Sunday. And while there is no shame in losing to a top-ten opponent on the road, the manner in which they lost is worrisome. The Sun Devils looked lost on offense, were outmuscled in the paint, and shot a measly 32.6 percent from the field. However, it was the mental errors – a season-high 23 turnovers – that once again doomed the Sun Devils.

Ball control has been an issue all season long, but it was especially bad against the Wildcats. To put it in perspective, ASU’s starting backcourt of Gerry Blakes and Roosevelt Scott combined for 13 turnovers and only one assist. It’s hard to win any game with that many miscues, much less a contest against an elite team like Arizona. For now, it looks like coach Herb Sendek will stick with the current lineup, but one has to wonder if he will pull the plug on this experiment if they continue their turnover-prone play.

The Beavers also opened the conference schedule with a road loss to an in-state rival. Oregon State stayed close in the first half, but was not able to overcome a 27-point outburst from Oregon guard Joseph Young and eventually lost 71-59. On the season, however, Oregon State has out-performed preseason expectations. The Beavers were picked to finish dead last in the Pac-12 media preseason poll. And considering the circumstances around the Oregon State program – a new coach, five new starters and a lackluster recruiting class – it was a reasonable expectation.

However, first-year coach Wayne Tinkle has led an inexperienced roster to a 9-4 record, with victories over Mississippi State and DePaul. And despite a lack of overall talent, the Beavers have remained competitive with a stingy defense, limiting opponents to 57.6 points per game on a mere 36.5 percent from the field.

They have relied heavily on JUCO newcomer Gary Payton II, who is a solid all-around player like his Hall-of-Fame dad. The younger Payton is putting up “video game” stats this season: 12.5 points, 8.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 3 steals per contest. However, it’s not a one-man show for Oregon State. The Beavers have received steady contributions from a trio of juniors – Langston Morris-Walker, Olaf Schaftenaar and Victor Robbins.

Probable Starters:

G – Gerry Blakes (11.9 PPG, 4.9 RPG) vs. Malcolm Duvivier (8.6 PPG, 3.5 APG)

G – Roosevelt Scott (4.4 PPG, 2.2 RPG) vs. Gary Payton II (12.5 PPG, 8.4 RPG)

F – Shaq McKissic (10.5 PPG, 4.6 RPG) vs. Langston Morris-Walker (10.7 PPG, 4.5 RPG)

F – Savon Goodman (13.0 PPG, 7.0 RPG) vs. Olaf Schaftenaar (10.8 PPG, 42% 3PT)

C – Eric Jacobsen (9.9 PPG, 64% FG) vs. Daniel Gomis (3.9 PPG, 2.9 RPG)

Why ASU Can Win: Oregon State’s 9-4 record is somewhat of a mirage, considering their weak out-of-conference schedule (ranked No. 252 nationally). Despite being a solid defensive unit, the Beavers have struggled to score this season (67.4 PPG) and are painfully thin inside. For the Sun Devils, the key on the offensive end is to assert their dominance in the paint, with a steady dose of Eric Jacobsen and Savon Goodman.

Defensively, they may want to focus on Malcolm Duvivier. Forced to play out of position, Duvivier has had growing pains making the transition to point guard. He is still learning the nuances of the position – and has had trouble handling the ball, especially against full-court pressure. The Sun Devils match up well against the Beavers, have a rebounding advantage, and enter the contest with added motivation after last Sunday’s beat down. That should be enough to leave Gill Coliseum with their first road win of the season.

Why Oregon State Can Win: The Beavers are undefeated (8-0) at home this season, and have actually won each contest by double digits. Much of their success has hinged on their ability to control the tempo. They don’t have a ton of athletes – and prefer to play half-court basketball to minimize the number of possessions. Offensively, the Beavers don’t have a prototypical go-to scorer, and instead rely on a scoring-by-committee approach. This enables them to use a well-balanced scoring attack, which can be difficult for opponents to game plan against.

Defensively, the Beavers might be the most underrated team in the conference. They are among the league leaders in scoring defense, opponents’ field goal percentage, and forced turnovers. The Beavers may not be aesthetically pleasing to watch, but they have found ways to grind out victories.

Key Stat: The Sun Devils are averaging a league-worst 15.1 turnovers per game. Arizona State is actually one of the better shooting teams in the Pac-12 (46% FG), but it’s a moot point if they fail to get a shot off.

X-Factor: Savon Goodman. The sophomore forward got into early foul trouble against Arizona and never found a rhythm. He was held to only two points (0-3 FG) and three rebounds in 19 minutes of action. The Sun Devils need Goodman to bounce back with a solid effort. Along with Jacobsen, he should have a field day against the Beavers’ thin frontcourt.

Final Score Prediction: ASU 58, Oregon State 55


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