Oregon St. (13-8, 5-4) at Arizona St. (16-6, 5-4) / Wells Fargo Arena, Tempe, AZ / 9 PM MST (8 PM PST) / Fox Sports 1 / KEJO 1240 AM / KEX 1190 AM
Oregon St. opens their trip to the desert tonight in Tempe, taking on Arizona St. It's the first time in 2 years that the Oregon teams have made a winter escape to the desert, as this is the return trip for last year's games in the valley, a product of the Pac-12 schedule rotation that had the teams meeting only once a year the last 2 seasons.
It's a nice escape for the Beavers, considering that Corvallis is stuck in sub-freezing wintry temperatures this week, and several inches of snow blanket the campus this evening. Meanwhile, temperatures in the Valley of the Sun will reach well into the 60s, and the lows will still be double digit degrees higher than the highs at home.
Oregon St. will be trying to snap a 3 game losing streak against Arizona St., and if successful, will be 6-4 in conference for the first time since the 1992-93 season, 21 years ago.
The Beavers are coming off back to back close wins over the LA schools, having backed up a 76-75 overtime win over USC with a 71-67 upset of UCLA on Sunday before the Super Bowl. The Bruins held Roberto Nelson, the Pac-12's leading scorer to 12 points, barely more than half of his average, but the price for those double teams was freshman guard Hallice Cooke having the best day yet in his young career. Cooke came through with a game and career high 20 points, including 4 made 3 pointers, and the game clinching free throws with 5 seconds left in the game.
Meanwhile, Eric Moreland had a double double, and both Angus Brandt and Devon Collier were in double digits as well. Figuring out which component of Oregon St.'s unprecedented balance to try to shut down will be Arizona St.'s biggest task tonight.
The Sun Devils saw their 3 game winning streak come to an end at Stanford last Saturday. Despite coming in pumped up after an 89-78 win over California in overtime in their first game in the Bay Area, Arizona St. couldn't keep pace with Dwight Powell, who poured in a game high 28 points to extinguish the Sun Devils' fire.
Jahii Carson, who was at one time committed to Oregon St., and is Arizona St.'s leading scorer, averaging over 19 points per game, led the Sun Devils with 24 points, and Jermaine Marshall, his back-court running mate, added 22 more.
The Cardinal won the rebound battle 40-32, including grabbing 15 on the offensive end, while limiting the Sun Devils to just 7 offensive boards, on a night Arizona St. shot only 41%. Arizona St.'s 7'2" senior center Jordan Bachynski, their leading rebounder, averaging 9 a game, did himself one better, snagging 10 boards, but got relatively little help.
Winning the battle on the boards, which the Beavers have done in all but 1 of their Pac-12 games, and since Moreland returned, will be crucial if Oregon St., who is above .500 at the mid-way mark in the conference race for the first time in 15 years, is to remain that way tonight.
How well Moreland and Collier do at blocking shots, compared to Bachynski, who is the best in the country, and the in the history of the conference at it, will be an interesting show as well. Look for guards to jack up more jump shots tonight than to drive to the basket.
Last year, Arizona St. downed Oregon St. 82-72, the first of consecutive 10 point losses to the desert dwellers the Beavers would suffer. Moreland was out with both a strained back and a suspension for violation of team rules, and as a result, the Sun Devils dominated the boards, and dominated the middle portion of the game, building a 15 point lead.
The Beavers would battle back to within 4 points more than once, and shut out the Sun Devils for over 5 1/2 minutes, but ran out of gas. Carson led the way for Arizona St., with 20 points.
The last time Oregon St. was in Wells Fargo Arena, where they haven't won since 2007, it was another 10 point loss for the Beavers, that time 76-66, after Chanse Creekmur made 8 of the 9 shots he took, including 6 of 7 from 3 point range, on his way to a game and career high 24 point night that overshadowed a 21 point effort from Collier.