(Photo: Scotty Bara/WCSN)
Trying to crawl back into Pac-12 contention, Arizona State looks to avoid its fourth straight loss, taking on the Oregon State Beavers in its eighth game of Pac-12 play.
The Sun Devils are coming off a road trip in which they lost both games to the Bay Area schools by a combined seven points. Despite their record, almost every game of Pac-12 play has been of this variety. Nearly every game has included a furious ASU comeback in the second half that came up short because time ran out. In conference play, the average margin of defeat is just over four points.
Heartbreak has been the headline of conference play for ASU thus far, but playing the Beavers in recent years has been far from disappointing. Oregon State has lost seven straight meetings in Tempe, with its last road win against the Sun Devils coming in 2007 – before Bobby Hurley was even a coach. Aside from the recent stretch of success, ASU has defeated Oregon State more than any other Pac-12 school in its history.
This season, the Beavers are 12-6 overall but 3-4 in the Pac-12. Despite their mediocre conference record, they are led by maybe the best player in the conference this season. Gary Payton II is averaging 17.5 points per game (2nd in the Pac-12), 8.4 rebounds per game (8th), 5.3 assists per game (2nd), and 2.4 steals per game (1st).
Behind Payton is one of the best freshman the conference has to offer in forward Tres Tinkle, who is averaging 12.2 points and joins Payton in the top ten in the conference in steals per game with 1.3 per game.
If ASU wants to keep its home streak against the Beavers alive, it will come down to containing these two, as well as keeping a few other things in check.
Keys to the game
Make. Free. Throws.
This has been one of the Achilles’ heels for the Sun Devils in the Pac-12 season, and has even lost them a few games this conference season. For instance, in their lost game in the loss to Stanford, the Sun Devils made 58 percent of their free throws, missing seven attempts. They ended up losing by only two points.
The games the Sun Devils have struggled in have almost all been the same games that they shoot poorly from the free throw line. A -4.1 point spread in conference can easily be diminished if ASU knocks down its shots from the charity stripe.
ASU has shot the most three-pointers in the conference. While three-point shooting has elevated ASU’s game at points this season, the excessive attempts have taken a toll on its offense. To go along with the most attempts in the conference, it also has the worst percentage.
More than a third of ASU’s attempts from the field this season have come from beyond the arc, and its poor overall shooting has been largely due to their sluggish three-point shooting. ASU’s 42.6 percent overall shooting from the floor is 10th in the conference.
Oregon State on the other hand has taken the least amount of three-pointers in the conference this season, but are ninth overall shooting from the floor.
Solely based on the fact that Oregon State is much less likely to shoot a three than ASU is, the Beavers are likely to find more opportunities in the paint to create more efficient offense. In other words, if ASU finds itself launching from long range early, it will be another game of catchup by the second half.