Kevin Hampton, who covers Oregon State for the Gazette-Times in Corvallis, answered a few of my questions in regards to Washington State’s meeting with the Beavers on Thursday.
Ryan Collingwood: Oregon State has been inconsistent offensively, but is substantially better than a year ago averaging 74 points a night (compared to 60 last year). What’s been the difference?
Kevin Hampton: The addition of a very talented group of freshmen and more emphasis on pushing the ball has improved the scoring for the Beavers.
RC: How big is the addition of touted redshirt freshman Roberto Nelson, who became eligible last month?
KH: He gave the team an immediate boost, both on the court and psychologically. When the wait was finally over I think it not only lifted a weight off Nelson’s shoulders but off the entire team’s. Nelson is still getting used to college ball but he clearly is worthy of the praise he got as a high school recruit. Great shooter. Pretty tough defender and surprisingly good rebounder.
RC: With an impressive sweep of Arizona St. and Arizona in Corvallis last weekend, the losses to Utah Valley State, Seattle University, Montana and Texas Southern are hard to ignore. What factored into the early letdowns and what does it say about the Beavers’s fortitude with its 2-0 Pac-10 start?
KH: I think it was a combination of how young the team is, with nine freshmen and sophomores, and Craig Robinson tinkering with the lineup to find the right rotation. It was hard for the Beavers to play with any kind of continuity and led to some bad losses to, frankly, some vastly inferior opponents. OSU also has a tendency to play up or down to its opponents.
RC: Has sophomore Joe Burton been an X-factor of sorts for OSU? After going 14-for-21 in the wins over ‘Zona and ASU, his shooting proved to be a boon.
KH: Burton is a big guy (he’s listed at 6-7, 280 but his weight is probably down to 260) who came into the season in great shape but seemed slow and out of sorts in most of the nonconference games. He snapped out of it in time for the start of the Pac-10 season and was a big reason for the sweep. He has great touch inside and an array of baseline moves to get his shot off against taller players.
RC: OSU is second in the country in steals (11.15 per game) and is known to mix up defenses. With that in mind, how does it plan on handling guard-heavy Washington State?
KH: The Beavers still rely on the 1-3-1 zone but have switched it up at times this season. They’ll go with the same defenses they’ve been running all season.
RC: Uber-athletic guard Jared Cunningham, who had 20 points in the Beavs’ win over the Cougs in Corvallis last year as a freshman, has a team-leading 13.8 ppg and leads the Pac-10 in steals (3.15 spg). Will he be matched up with Klay Thompson?
The Beavers most likely won’t put Cunningham on Thompson specifically unless they go man, but I’m sure we’ll see them go head-to-head at times.
RC: Craig Robinson’s clubs have been more competitive since his arrival, but have lacked consistency. How can the Beavers keep their momentum throughout the rest of the conference excursion?
KH: Now that Robinson knows his rotation they should be consistent, but they’re young so it might be tough for them to deal with adversity on the road.
A look at the bounce of OSU’s Cunningham