I know that basketball is a ways down the list of things we want to talk about during the run-up to the football Civil War, but it's about time I recapped the basketball game I attended on Saturday afternoon between Oregon State and Sacramento State.
If you're wanting to talk Civil War, head over to The VD Special's thread over on the right, where the conversations has exploded in the last few days.
Generally, the rule of thumb is that teams who have their state's name on their jersey (i.e. Oregon) should beat teams who rep the name of their city (i.e. Sacramento). On Saturday, this wasn't the case... but it almost was.
Oregon State got off to a great start to the game. They scored on their first possession, then Sac State dribbled into OSU's trap, the Beavs got a steal, and Seth Tarver scored to make it 4-0 in the first minute. Sacramento State called timeout, and proceeded to dominate the remainder of the first half.
On Sacramento State's first several offensive possessions, they couldn't get the ball into the key against OSU's defense. It just wasn't going to happen. OSU deployed a 2-3 zone, forcing them to throw up three point shots from everywhere. Which they did.
The Hornets shot 60 percent from beyond the arc before the half. 60 percent! They had more three's made in the first twenty minutes than two point baskets.
Combine that with a general lack of effort on the part of Oregon State and a poor field goal percentage for the Beavers in the first half, and you get the score 44-22 at halftime.
But not to be completely embarrassed, Oregon State came raging back in the second half, and frankly, Sacramento State let them. The Hornets went into a four-corner offense in order to run down the clock, apparently. Why do that when your team is making half of the three-pointers they throw up? Amazingly, the Hornets only attempted one three-pointer in the second half, and missed it.
Lathen Wallace hit a deep three for the Beavers with a little over five minutes left in the game to get Oregon State within three, giving Beaver Nation a sign of light at the end of the tunnel. A few minutes later Joe Burton made a lay-in to put Oregon State on top 60-58 with just under three minutes remaining.
Sacramento State would tie the game on their next possesion. On Oregon State's next possession, Lathen Wallace tried to be the hero with another deep three which he missed-- Sac State would draw a foul and make two free throws to go ahead for good with just over a minute left. Oregon State would have a chance to tie or take the lead at least two more times, but both chances failed, and Sacramento State won 65-63.
So the question emerges: Is Craig Robinson's charm wearing off? Was last year a fluke?
I think it's a bit early to make that judgement yet. He has a lot of new guys on the roster who have talent, but there is obviously some tension as the Jay John era players try to keep their playing time against the recruits Craig Robinson has brought in.
Unless they're superstars, it's hard to play freshmen in the Pac-10. Jared Cunningham, Joe Burton and the other freshmen are good players, but they're not the next O.J. Mayo or James Harden of the conference. But still, the young guys are as competitive as can be. They want playing time. There were several occasions where Angus Brandt was irate when he got pulled out of the game. Same thing for Joe Burton and Jared Cunningham-- it just wasn't as obvious.
This was the kind of loss that we've seen every year for the past few years-- embarrassing losses to inferior opponents. The Beavers haven't had a pre-season yet where they've dominated the competition, and CR was quick to point that out post-game:
"Everyone thinks we're a lot better than we are and we're just proving everybody wrong that we're not that good yet. It may take us a little bit longer for us to get to where everybody thinks we should be. That's the first thing. "
"The second thing is that it's not a time to panic. It's a time to get better and keep working. You're taking guys who didn't win any game in the league just a full year ago. A year ago these guys played like this in the first half all the time. "
Is he making excuses? I say no. This team is different in the fact that the expectations are higher. But the Beavs obviously have some things to figure out in the locker room to get everyone on the same page.