By Rich Ruben
The Trojans put together their best offensive game with one of their best defensive performances and smoked Oregon State in Corvallis 75-55. I asked Andy after the game whether the offense or defense was better, and he was stumped before concluding that the Trojans played a great all around game.
There was some concern over how well this team would bounce back after that very tough double overtime loss to the Ducks, and having only a day and a half to recover. No worries; the Trojans kept their record perfect after losses, and are now 16-4 and 5-2 in the PAC 12. A big road margin against a pretty good Beaver team will move the Trojans up several places when the new NET rankings come out tomorrow. Although OSU is struggling right now, they are too talented not to bounce back with some nice wins which will help the Trojans ranking.
There were almost too many highlights in this win to address them all. It started with the Trojans jumping out to a 30-8 lead in their best 13 minutes of the season. Andy said that the only time in the entire game when they did not play great defense was finishing out the first half, allowing the Beavs to close to 36-28 at the break and allowing OSU to score the final 8 points of the half. But SC never trailed and built the lead back with a 14 point run after intermission.
The Trojans shot 57.7% in the first half, and in the second half they couldn’t miss, making 16-22 from the field (72.7%) and 3-5 from three. SC made so many shots that they were only able to grab 3 offensive rebounds. Andy was surprised when I asked him if he ever had a team shoot 72% in a half, and he asked “Was that what we were?”, while looking at the score sheet. He credited sharing the ball for a lot of the Trojans’ success; SC had 20 assists on 31 made shots.
The defense held the Beavs to 37% from the field and 6-22 from three. The score sheet told the story. OSU was a minus 19 when all league Tres Tinkle was on the floor, minus 16 when star point guard Ethan Thompson was in, and minus 21 when their big forward Kylor Kelley played. Those are the three players who the Beavers rely on for most of their scoring.
It might have been a good omen for SC when the team awoke to bright sunshine, and it remained sunny at game time. SC’s individual numbers were outstanding. Big O was 7-8 from the field including a few dunks and one tomahawk jam which brought a big smile to Andy’s face and the players on the bench to their feet. Nick was waving a towel high above his head before he somehow landed on the floor in front of his seat. O finished with 18 points, 8 boards and was credited with 2 blocks, though it seemed he got his hand on more than two shots. He sent one shot into the third row of seats. He only played 25 minutes, due to first half foul trouble and suffering a cut in his mouth that took him to the bench in the early minutes of the second half.
Jonah played a great all around game. He was 6-12 from the field and 3-7 from three, and finished with 16 points and 2 steals. Ethan had perhaps his best game of the season, making 5-7 shots including one three, and grabbed 6 rebounds to go with 6 assists and only one turnover. Elijah also had a big game, making 6-7 shots including one three and had 4 assists, though he also had 3 TOs. He has become very effective on his drives to the rim, and can finish with either hand. Isaiah made his only two shots, and contributed 5 rebounds and 3 assists. He also continued his strong play at the defensive end. Nick scored 10 points and had 2 blocks, and played very well defensively.
The Trojans ran a lot of plays, and everything seemed to work. There were a couple pick and rolls, including one with Ethan on the receiving end. They also got several layups from back door screens, and almost all of their shots were high percentage attempts.
On the other end, they held to Thompson to 3-13 from the field and 1-6 from three. His only made three was late in the first half when a defender got lost in traffic. Tinkle made 6-16 shots, but he had to work very hard. OSU played Tinkle at the power forward at times, and it led to a host of Trojans guarding him, including Daniel, Jonah, Elijah and even Nick at times. They all did a great job, and played very strong team defense.
Daniel started on Tinkle, but two early fouls caused the Trojans to adjust. Daniel played only 17 1/2 minutes and didn’t get into the flow offensively, making a three on only two shots. Before the game Beaver guard Zach Reichle put on a shooting display, effortlessly making one three after another after another. He is a big guard at 6’5”, but the Trojans held him to only 5 points and 4 shots. With Daniel not playing many minutes, all of SC’s guards were covering bigger players for long stretches when they were defending Tinkle, Thompson and Reichle, but OSU couldn’t take advantage.
As the second half went on, the Beavs hesitated to take the hall inside due to O’s presence. Every Beaver seemed to be intimidated. The Trojans outscored OSU 44-28 in the paint.
Morning Walk Through
At the 40 minute walk through, Andy stressed that OSU was a 4 point favorite, and that they needed to be physical and to get the ball inside. They focused the first part of the session on how they would attack OSU’s man and zone press, although it turned out that the Beavers did not press too often. They also went over what they wanted to do if Kelley or one of the other big men came out to set a high screen, and the strategy differed depending on who set the screen.
The Beavers try to screen a lot for Thompson, and SC worked on how they wanted to defend Thompson off these screens. On the offensive end, they addressed how to avoid blocks by Kelley; it must have worked since OSU didn’t block a shot the whole game.
Other News And Notes From Gill Coliseum
– Gill is an old style arena, with a lot of odd angles in the stands. It‘s the polar opposite from Matthew Knight Arena. Interestingly there were no metal detectors at either venue, though bags were checked. They have a 6 year old basketball facility next door, with one floor for the men and the other for the women’s team. That facility is shiny and nice, and the walk thru was held there. One side is floor to ceiling windows, a bit like Galen
– The Arena was about 2/3 full. Some Beaver fans starting leaving at the 7 minute mark, and a couple of minutes later the place was emptying in a hurry. Friday night, the top ten Ducks and Beaver womens’ teams played in Eugene before a sell out crowd. I am still surprised that SC’s game at Oregon was not close to a sell out.
– Although the capacity at Gill is only 600-700 less than Galen, it seems smaller, in part due to very steep stairs in the upper deck. About 40% of the seats are benches with no backs, including some on the lower level.
– The half time “entertainment “ was a crawling race involving about a dozen babies from the foul line to mid court. The announcer said that the winner won by over 20 baby lengths. Entertainment is different in small towns.
– After the game, I walked part of the two blocks to the team hotel next to a woman with her two grandsons, about 7 and 10. One wanted to know why the Beavers don’t have better players, and she explained that some richer schools can give out more scholarship money, which was an interesting explanation. But she finished with “But I still love living in Corvallis”.
The Trojans return home for games against the mountain schools, hosting Utah on Thursday and Colorado on Saturday. SC has won 9 of its last 11, and came so close to a road sweep. The PAC 12 is very competitive and wide open. Unfortunately the Oregon schools don’t come to LA this year, so there is no opportunity to avenge the loss to the Ducks. But in this conference a road split is almost always ok.
I was impressed that the Trojans were able to put the double-OT loss behind them so quickly, and start this game on fire. This SC team is very good when they get significant contributions from several players. It doesn’t have to be the same 4-5 guys each night. They have eight players getting a lot of playing time, and this Thursday it is as likely that Daniel will have a big game as anyone else.