Oregon State Preview

The Sun Devils (16-9, 5-8) welcome the Oregon State Beavers (14-9, 6-6) to Tempe on Thursday night, hoping to stop a three game losing skid at Wells Fargo Arena.

Coaches

Head Coach: Jay John (3rd season) –missed game in Corvallis due to illness
Assistants: Kevin Mouton, Jeff Reinert, Bryan Lloyd

Projected Starters

G Lamar Hurd 6-4 190 Jr. (2.7pts, 3.2 rebs, 3.0 asst) – solid PG that can distribute well
G Chris Stephens 6-2 210 Jr. (10.5 pts, 2.3 rebs) – Beavers' best 3-pt threat; second in Pac 10 FT% (90.9%)
C Kyle Jeffers 6-9 270 So. (2.8pts, 2.9 rebs) – did not start against ASU in Corvallis
F Nick DeWitz 6-8 220 Jr. (13.7 pts, 5.3 rebs) – averaging 19.0 pts over last three games; posted a career high 22 points against ASU in Corvallis
F David Lucas 6-7 245 Sr. (17.6 pts, 6.6 rebs) – solid post presence; Pac 10 POW

Key Reserves

G J.S. Nash 6-2 210 Sr. (10.2 pts, 3.0 rebs, 2.9 asst) – despite bench role, leads OSU in minutes per game
F Sasa Cuic 6-10 240 Fr. (10.0 pts, 4.3 rebs) – impressive Fr. with European-style game, but is only averaging 4.4 pts in last ten games
G Jason Fontenet 5-10 169 Jr. (7.7 pts, 3.0 asst) – from Phoenix, had a big game against the Devils in Corvallis
F Vic Remmers 6-5 215 Sr. (2.9 pts) – limited minutes at the SF position

Overview

This game will feature two teams that seem to be heading in opposite directions. Oregon State is coming off a home sweep this past weekend, including a thrilling 90-73 defeat of the (then) #11 Washington Huskies on Sunday. On the other hand, ASU is coming off three straight conference defeats. The Devils were swept in LA last week and were really never in either of the games.

In the first meeting between these teams in Corvallis, the Beavers jumped out to an early lead and never looked back, routing the Sun Devils 88-66 in a game that wasn't even as close as the lopsided margin indicates. ASU was never in the game, on the scoreboard or in their heads, and the Beavers took full advantage.

As usual when he plays ASU, David Lucas had his way offensively down on the block. Nick DeWitz's added a career-high 22 points to compliment Lucas' 27-point night. As if that wasn't enough, Lamar Hurd dished out nine assists (the most by a Beaver this season), the Beavers shot 60.5% from the field, and they held Ike Diogu to only five second half points (after notching 22 in the first half). It is easy to see why there was a 22-point margin when the final buzzer mercifully sounded.

We learned last week in LA that ASU isn't willing to fight for an NCAA Tournament invitation. The sweep last week pretty much sealed their invitation to the NIT and they didn't give much of an effort to keep that from happening, despite a split keeping those hopes alive. Consequently, it is hard to think that the Devils will find a way to put together enough of a focused effort to beat OSU; however, if there is one thing you can say about this ASU team it is they are unpredictable.

Like every other game ASU has played this year and will play the remainder of the year, their fates will be determined on the defensive end. The Devils have given up an average of 81.4 points over the last five games. For a team that is supposed to be centered on defense, this isn't a good omen. It also explains why ASU is 1-4 in that same five game stretch, winning only the game in which they gave up a reasonable number of points (67 to Stanford).

The Sun Devils have struggled with teams that feature athletic backcourts. ASU has been able to beat Stanford and their heady-yet-unathletic back court twice this year and also beat Washington State and it's slow down style; however, the Devils have struggled with just about every other team so far this season. Most of those teams have athletic playmakers at the guard and/or small forward positions. To be blunt, ASU cannot defend on the perimeter. And while we're being blunt, they aren't really that good on the interior, either. Both will have to change if ASU wants a shot at a victory over the Beavers.

Offensively, the game plan should be Ike, Ike, and more Ike. Diogu leads the conference in points, rebounds, and blocked shots. Since they started keeping statistics for blocked shots, no player has ever led the conference in those three categories. And, it should be noted, that if only conference games are used, Diogu's place at the top of those categories would not change.

However, while Ike must play well for ASU to win, the Devils' hopes really hinge on his supporting cast. Three of these four players must play at least average games in order for ASU to earn the victory: Steve Moore, Kevin Kruger, Bryson Krueger, or Serge Angounou. Each of those players has shown the ability to step up at one point or another during the season. Only Kruger has proven he can be consistent.

In the end, this game will come down to desire and focus. The Sun Devils showed neither of those traits last week in Los Angeles. Only a sweep of the Oregon schools will quiet the voices calling for head coach Rob Evans' head. Even with a sweep, there are many that are ready to cut him loose.

If the players care at all about their coaches' future with the university, we should see great efforts in both games this weekend – win or lose. If they don't give inspired efforts, ASU fans and administration will know all they need to about the relationship between the coaches and players.

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