There have been several reasons for the Beavers looking like a better team since conference play started. Eric Moreland is part of this, as the team sorely missed his rebounding, and to a lesser degree his defense. Devon Collier starting to contribute again which also helps, but no one has had as big of an impact as Hallice Cooke has had since coach Robinson expanded Cooke's role.
Cooke has brought what the Beavers have desperately needed for years, a second scorer to complement their leading scorer. Throughout the Jared Cunningham years, it was just Cunningham and he had no one else to go to when they would key in on him. The hope was that this would be Roberto Nelson during that time, but he was struggling, and as a result the Beaver offense could never get going, devolving into a relentless barrage of Cunningham drives into traffic. Cooke fills that role and has generally been performing at a high level. It opens things up more for Nelson now, who is the lead scorer, but when he is getting harassed and having a poor game, for example last week against UCLA, Cooke can come in and score in his stead.
This is the type of guard that the Beavs have needed for the longest time as well. No other Beaver in the Robinson era has had the quickness that Cooke has, Cunningham was an athlete, but always seemed to have more straight-line speed and a great vertical leap. Cooke has been able to use his quicks to create space for a mid-range pull-up jumper. No other Beaver in the Robinson era has had a real strong pull-up jumper, Nelson's is solid but he is not as quick-twitch as needed to create space, although he does have a strong all around game that helps keep the defense on their heels.
He also is one of the better defenders already for OSU, where he can keep in front of his man the majority of the time, although Langston Morris-Walker deserves a mention for his defense as well. He has been able to get in passing lanes as well, having several multi-steal games this year.
This is not to say that Cooke is near his max potential either. As a freshman he will get stronger, although he will probably never thrive on the post, but he will be able to take it to the rim more often, especially with how strong his dribbling is. One thing he will learn to do is to be more careful with his passes, he has been caught a couple times this year forcing passes, but that is something that will improve over time as well.
Also impressive is that Cooke has blossomed with his new starting job, where he has not only scored more but has increased his field goal percentage in the meantime.
Cooke has been impressive on the court and his numbers generally back it up as well. He has become an integral part of this team, and offers some hope for the future of the Beavers basketball program as well.