This Saturday, we’ll have some Civil War basketball in Eugene as the Oregon Ducks face the Oregon State Beavers at 4:00 PM. This is a matchup featuring two teams trending in opposite directions with Oregon currently on a 13-game winning streak, while the Beavers have lost nine of their last ten games.
Ahead of the game, I talked with Mitch Heath, who writes for Building the Dam, SB Nation’s Oregon State Beavers blog on their recent struggles, the loss of Tres Tinkle, and what the Beavers need to do for the chance of an upset.
It's been a rough year for the Beavers, who are sitting at 4-13. How much of that has to do with losing Tres Tinkle, and what other factors have come into play?
Losing Tres Tinkle for the last 11 games has been huge for us. We already were an exceptionally young team and depth was going to be a problem for us prior to the injuries. Tres briefly was a top ten scorer in the conference prior to his wrist injury (20 ppg). Believe it or not, he still was the team leader in free throw attempts prior to out last game despite missing over half of the season. Stevie Thompson Jr., our other expected leading scorer, sat out most of our non-conference schedule with a foot injury. So our two leading scorers haven't played in a game at the same time since our exhibition game. Other than injuries, the two JUCO guys brought in over the off-season haven't panned out. Keondre Dew, one of the nation's top JUCO transfers last year, has only played a handful of games while serving an indefinite suspension. Ronnie Stacy, a transfer guard, has seen his playing time dwindle to almost nothing over the course of the season due to turnover woes and an inability to score. Because of those four guy's varying levels of playing time, freshmen and walk-ons have been put into impossible situations and are being asked to do more than should be expected of them.
Who has been the player to step up in Tinkle's absence?
JaQuori McLaughlin has exceeded expectations more than any other player. Coming in as one of our highest ranked recruits after flipping from UW prior to the season, the freshman guard has worked his way into the starting lineup when he initially was more likely to be a 6th or 7th man. He's averaging 12 points a game and the team seems to look for his offense during scoring droughts more and more. He's become the guy with the ball in his hands deep in the shot clock very early in his career, and rightfully so.
What does Oregon State need to do to stay in this game and give themselves a chance at an upset win?
Three things in particular have plagued this season: turnovers, poor outside shooting, and missed free throws. If we can keep calm under pressure and have smart possessions that end in more scoring and less fast break points for the Ducks, we have a chance. Getting some 3's to fall and being consistent at the free throw line would help keep the game within reach down the stretch.
What has been Oregon State's biggest strength this season that the Ducks will need to shut down?
Drew Eubank's post play has been by far our biggest strength. He's been double-teamed or sucked into the middle of a 2-3 zone by most opponents this season, but despite this has still managed to average over 14 points and 8 rebounds a game. He's also both an emphatic shot blocker and dunker, much like Boucher, so their match-up is what I am most excited about in this game.
Score prediction. Who wins and why?
I think that Oregon wins this one by double digits, somewhere around 75 to 58. We have struggled to score and the Duck's will capitalize on turnovers. It's a low point in the season, and I think that the game at Gill at the end of conference play will be a much different Beaver's team than the one that the Ducks see on Saturday.
Be sure to check out Building the Dam for more Civil War coverage leading up to this matchup.