USC Basketball Game Preview: Oregon State Beavers


USC Trojans (10-7, 2-2) at Oregon State Beavers (7-9, 2-3)

Head Coach: Craig Robinson (Year 3: 39-44)

Conference: Pac-10

Stars: G Jared Cunningham, G Calvin Haynes

Location: Corvallis, Oregon (Gill Coliseum)

Time: 7:30 PM (PDT)

TV: Fox Sports Northwest

Radio: 710 AM

Matchup: USC moves on to the second leg of its road trip after dropping its first road contest of the Pac-10 season at Oregon. The Trojans began that game lackadaisically, and only caught fire after Nikola Vucevic and E.J. Singler entered into a shoving match under the basket. At one point, USC trailed the Ducks by 21, but brought it down to five with 4:28 to play before losing. Once again, the Trojans struggled mightily to solve the zone defense. They shot 41.3% overall, but the early goings were rough as the first half produced only 26 points.

Oregon State began conference play on a roll, sweeping the Arizona schools. Since then, the Beavers have lost three in a row (Washington, Washington State, and UCLA). Craig Robinson’s side is only 7-9, but they have been playing much better as of late. Early in the year, they lost to teams like Seattle, Texas Southern, and Utah Valley. Furthermore, the Beavers had USC’s number last year and swept them.

In order to beat the zone, USC needs to knock down its shots. Donte Smith drained his attempts early on, but the rest of the squad struggled. Another way to combat the zone is to get the ball inside. USC played outside for most of the game against Oregon and it killed them. Alex Stepheson is a fantastic, but he can’t be effective if he has to take jump shots from outside the paint like he did in Eugene. The Trojans perfected attacking the zone against Kansas, and they need to get back to that style of offense. Against the Jayhawks, a guard would feed Vucevic or Stepheson inside. If no one came over to help, the big men were free to take on their defender. If they received a double team, the big men could pass out to an open guard for an easy jumper. Somehow, the Trojans have gotten away from this plan in subsequent games and their offensive production has suffered.

The Beavers use a deep nine man rotation, and their scoring is rather spread out. Guards Jared Cunningham and Calvin Hayes both average double figures. Cunningham is a sharp shooter, shooting just over 42% from beyond the arc.  Much like Oregon, Oregon State doesn’t shoot the ball particularly well. USC needs to bring intensity from the very beginning in order to ensure that the Beavers have trouble scoring.

After a bad loss to Oregon on Thursday, the Trojan’s at-large hopes are on life support. Their resume includes too many bad losses and the only way into the NCAA tournament appears to be winning the Pac-10 in the regular season or  the conference tournament. For USC, tonight is about learning how to win on the road. They struggled on the road in 2009 and laid an egg in their first conference road test on Thursday.