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Beavers Begin Desert Duels

Gary Payton II sliced through Gerry Blakes and Shaquielle McKissic in the first meeting between the Beavers and Sun Devils. Can he come up with another incisive effort in Tempe tonight?
Gary Payton II sliced through Gerry Blakes and Shaquielle McKissic in the first meeting between the Beavers and Sun Devils. Can he come up with another incisive effort in Tempe tonight?
(USA Today Sports photo via SB Nation)

Oregon St. (14-5, 5-2) at Arizona St. (10-10, 2-5) / Wells Fargo Arena, Tempe, AZ / 6 PM AST (5 PM PST) / Pac-12 Channel / KEJO 1240 AM / KEX 1190 AM

Game Notes / Arizona St. Game Notes

Oregon St. embarks tonight on a trip to the desert, during Super Bowl week no less, though they will be back home Saturday, before the big weekend.

The first stop is in Tempe, for a rematch with Arizona St., with a Friday evening trip down to Tucson to follow.

The Beavers come in having won 3 in a row, and 5 of their last 6, a streak that started with a 55-47 win over the Sun Devils back on Jan. 8, which has them tied with Stanford just 1 game back of conference leading Arizona and Utah.

But only 1 of those wins, and just 2 of their 14 this season, have come away from Gill Coliseum, where Oregon St. has been unbeatable, their best start at home since the 1989-90 season, which also happens to be the last year the Beavers went to the NCAA Tournament.

So the mission of the week is to successfully take "Tinkle Time" on the road. With a game against the upset 'Cats that the Beavers upset in Corvallis coming up, the chance for getting a split on the trip, which is a reasonable goal for first year Coach Wayne Tinkle's team, is best served with a win tonight.

The Sun Devils appeared to be on an uptick from their slow start to the conference campaign, in which that loss to the Beavers was the second in a 4 game losing streak, after wins over Colorado and at Caliafornia. But Arizona St. flamed out last Saturday night on the road in Palo Alto, losing 89-70 to Stanford, in a game in which no Sun Devil starter reached double digits in anything. Only Savon Goodman, who had 18 points in 19 minutes off the Arizona St. bench could be construed to have had a good game against the Cardinal.

With Victor Robbins in the midst of serving his 10 game suspension, their lack of depth and the resulting big minutes will again be the key issue for Oregon St. tonight and this weekend. Malcolm Duvivier, Olaf Schaftenaar, and Gary Payton II all played between 74 and 76 total minutes out of 80 in last week's sweep of UCLA & USC.

It didn't deter Payton from performing at a level that resulted in him being named the Pac-12 Player of the Week, though. Payton had 18 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists, and 5 steals in the 66-55 win over UCLA on Thursday evening, and followed it up with a 21 point, 10 board double-double against USC, and sealed the win with a steal, and the free throw, that put the 59-55 win over the Trojans away.

The Sun Devils have a pair of suspended players as well, with Roosevelt Scott, who has made 5 starts in 17 games played, and the much more lightly used Connor MacDougal, who has appeared in 6 games, both still unavailable.

And Arizona St. will be even shorter-handed for this game, and the rest of the season as well, after freshman guard Kodi Justice suffered a season ending foot injury in the first part of the Stanford game, 2 days after having posted a career high 16 points off the bench in the win at California. Justice has shot .459 from 3 point range, making 17 of 37.

Duvivier led all scorers in the first meeting between the Beavers and Sun Devils, with 15 points, on 10 of 11 free throw shooting, and Payton and Robbins, above, were also in double digits, with 12 and 10 points apiece.

Eric Jacobsen and Shaquielle McKissic co-led Arizona St., both with 11 points, and Jacobsen also had a game high 7 rebounds.

It's the 83rd meeting in the series, which is dead even at 41 wins apiece, after 2 consecutive wins by the Beavers dating to last season. Oregon St. hasn't won in Tempe since 2007 though.

Despite being behind Oregon St. in both the Pac-12 and overall W-L standings, and having already lost to the Beavers once, Arizona St. is a 6 point home favorite.

Connor takes a look at the game through Sun (Devil) glasses, and will have the story on the game from Well Fargo arena here afterwards.