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Beavers get only passing grade in exhibition opener

by: COURTESY OF OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY  - Roberto Nelson led Oregon State with 15 points on Tuesday night at Gill Coliseum.CORVALLIS -- What kind of a grade to give Oregon State after its 69-42 victory over Corban Tuesday night at Gill Coliseum in the Beavers' exhibition opener?

"I'd give us a 'C,' " OSU center Angus Brandt said.

"I think a 'C-minus,' " teammate Roberto Nelson said.

Sounds about right.

There wasn't a tremendous amount of information to be gleaned from the unofficial debut of Craig Robinson's sixth Oregon State team.

The Beavers were without two of their three best players -- suspended forwards Devon Collier, who will return in the second counting game against the University of Portland, and Eric Moreland, who will be missing until midseason.

But the opposition Tuesday night is from another basketball world.

Corban, an NAIA school that was 9-19 a year ago, boasts one senior, nobody taller than 6-7 and -- shades of the Adolph Rupp era -- not a single black player on the squad.

Going against a bigger, stronger, faster opponent, the Warriors wound up shooting .283 from the field and .219 from 3-point range -- hardly numbers that allow a house of Davids to knock off a Paul Bunyan from the Pac-12.

Oregon State opened the second half with a 24-1 run to break the game open after taking a 31-23 lead into intermission.

"We kept them scoreless the first 12 minutes (of the second half)," OSU point guard Challe Barton said. "That's a good sign."

The Warriors hung in for awhile, though, leading 14-11 midway through the first half as the Beavers stumbled around at the offensive end.

"A little bit of excitement, a little bit of nerves," Brandt assessed.

Robinson said the game played out exactly as he thought it would.

"It's your first time out, and you're going to feel rusty, you're going to be anxious," the OSU coach said. "And Corban is going to stick around because they're a good 3-point shooting team. And that's what happened."

Not really. Corban made only 3 of 17 from 3-point range in the first half, despite, as Nelson pointed out, "having a lot of wide-open shots." The Warriors, who finished 7 for 32 from beyond the arc, were able to stick around in part because the Beavers missed nine shots from inside five feet in the half.

"Shots we normally make," said Nelson, who missed his first four attempts before settling in, finishing 4 for 10 and scoring a team-high 15 points. "It was getting the jitters out."

Oregon State's perimeter defense was much better in the second half. The Warriors could hardly get off a shot until Robinson called off the dogs with OSU leading 61-27 and seven minutes to play.

"The first half, they were taking 60 percent of their shots" from 3-point range, Nelson said. "We had to contest those shots, make life a little more difficult for them."

Without Collier or Moreland, Robinson was able to get a good look at the rest of his front line, including post men Angus Brandt and Daniel Gomis, who both missed last season due to injury.

Brandt, a 7-foot senior coming off knee surgery, had eight points and two rebounds in 13 minutes, making 2 of 3 from the field and 4 of 4 from the foul line. Gomis, a 6-10 sophomore recovering from leg injuries over the past two years, missed the three shots he took from the field, going scoreless with three rebounds in 15 minutes in his first appearance in an OSU uniform.

Sophomore forwards Victor Robbins and Jarmal Reid -- Robbins in particular -- look as if they'll be of help. Robbins was 5 for 7 from the field and had 11 points, four rebounds and three assists in 24 minutes. Reid finished with seven points on 3-of-4 shooting to go with nine rebounds and five assists in 23 minutes. Both are willing defenders.

Robinson got a good look at his three freshmen, all of whom should be useful this season. Guards Hallice Cooke (1 for 5) and Malcolm Duvivier (1 for 3) shot poorly but have flow to their game and could develop into at least rotation players. And 7-foot Cheikh N'diaye -- like Gomis, a native of The Senegal -- was 3 for 4 from the field and collected six points and three boards in a 10-minute stint.

Robinson is emphasizing a commitment to defense, and Gomis and N'diaye -- who each had a posterizing block -- will help with their interior presence.

Nelson, a 6-4 senior with confidence to match his game, should be one of the best shooting guards in the Pac-12. Starting point guard Challe Barton is much more of a question mark.

"As he goes, we go," Robinson said of the 6-3 junior from Sweden, who averaged 2.9 points and 1.4 assists as a part-time starter a year ago. "He's going to be vital for us this season."

I'm not sure that's a good thing. Barton is only a decent defender and not much of a creator, and was reluctant to shoot last season except for games against Washington State and Utah late in the year, in which he combined to make 8 of 10 from 3-point range. Other than that, he was 5 for 30 on 3-point attempts for the season. Opposing defenses learned to back off him and focus on other Beavers, and still Barton would often pass up open looks.

Barton doesn't have to score a lot this season. He just has to take his shot often enough to keep opposing defenses honest. He was 3 for 5 from the field Tuesday night, finishing with eight points and five assists in 23 minutes. He made a 3-pointer with the shot clock running down in the first half.

"If he can post those kind of numbers in a Pac-12 game, that's a good line for a junior point guard," Robinson said.

Perhaps Barton will get a push from Cooke, who has been a good scorer and shooter in practice. That would be a good thing to happen as Oregon State gets into its Pac-12 schedule in January.

Looks to me like the Beavers will be a better defensive team but not as good an offensive team as they were a year ago, when they were 14-18 overall and 4-14 in conference play. Collier -- their best post-up scorer -- will help at the offensive end. After he joins on, Moreland should provide good things in nearly every area.

In the Pac-12's preseason poll, the media picked Oregon State to finish 10th, ahead of only Southern Cal and Washington State.

I saw nothing Tuesday night to convince me otherwise. But hey, it's early.

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