The Oregon State men’s basketball team lost just four preseason games as they geared up for what was to be a rough PAC-12 schedule. However, even if you take out the anomaly type loss to Coppin State to start the year, Oregon State’s resume wasn’t all that great as they began conference play against Colorado on January 2nd.
Losing three of their first four PAC-12 games had the Beavers reeling, and although the conference season was young, this year’s PAC-12 competition is stiff. There are, arguably, 5 or 6 teams that could very well end up in the field of 68 come March, so needless to say, OSU will constantly be the underdog. It’s a role they’ve embraced as of late, and are now playing some of their best basketball of the season.
Although the PAC-12 schedule didn’t start out as promising as Craig Robinson had hoped over the past few weeks, the OSU basketball team is starting to find its groove, notching two big wins against conference opponents. Last Sunday the Beavers knocked off the rival Oregon Ducks (ranked as high as #10 in the country at one point this year) in the first of two Civil War games this season and then, this past Wednesday, OSU travelled to Pullman, Washington and knocked off the WSU Cougars to push their PAC-12 record to 3-3.
After playing the likes of Colorado, Stanford, Cal, Oregon and Utah, three wins are a far cry from where many thought OSU would be after six games, and it’s the players on the team that can be attributed to the recent success.
Junior forward Eric Moreland returned to the Beavers January 2nd and needed a few games to find his own place on the team. After a few sub-par performances in his first two games, Moreland got back to his double-double ways and has been one of the bright spots on this Beaver team.
The other reason why OSU is starting to find success this season is the continued strong play from senior guard Roberto Nelson. I’ve written at length about how this is finally Roberto Nelson’s team, and his high scoring ways have not slowed down one bit. He’s scored at least 20 points in four straight games (wins over Stanford, Oregon and Wazzu, along with a narrow defeat at the hands of Cal), and he’s already made 33 three pointers on the season, which puts him on pace to surpass last year’s career high 56 made threes.
You’ve also got Angus Brandt’s triumphant return to the court after suffering a season ending injury last season, and you can’t count out veteran forward Devon Collier from the list of why OSU is starting to turn things around this season. But one of the more underrated reasons as to why Robinson’s crew is playing up to their competition is the youth movement that’s happening in Corvallis.
Hallice Cooke and Langston Morris-Walker, a freshman and sophomore respectively, have both logged impressive minutes for the Beavers over the past few weeks and have come up huge in the recent PAC-12 games. Cooke, the more high volume scorer of the two, has posted double digit scoring totals in four out the last seven games, with three of those four double digit scoring efforts coming in wins. Morris-Walker, on the other hand, is a bit more well-rounded, scoring typically in the 3-7 point range, however, it’s his impact on the glass that makes his minutes so valuable.
The Oregon State basketball team was nothing but an afterthought entering not just conference play, but the entire season. While they are still a growing team, and all the pieces aren’t completely there, the level of basketball Craig Robinson’s team has shown over the past few weeks is light years beyond their expectations.
They’ll have an opportunity to be above .500 in conference play this weekend as they are set to clash with the University of Washington Huskies, and you can expect more of the same unrelenting fight from the “underdog” Beaver basketball team.