After the nightmare that was last Saturday, the Dawgs look to save some face against another Pac-12 team looking for its first conference win. The Beavers are 0-5, most recently losing by 1 point to USC on the road. The match-up against USC is also the first time the Beavers have lost by less than double digits in conference play this season.
Last season’s NIT trip can just about be placed entirely on the first round loss to OSU in the conference tournament. Tony Wroten had his best and worst game all at once. The freshman guard posted 29 points, but missed 4 critical free throws in the final minutes of a two point loss. The game was a perfect summary of his season and is also a perfect example of why he is now sitting in the D-League, while Terrence Ross is posting highlight dunks nearly every night.
The Dawgs will be seeking revenge for that humiliating loss and will also be looking to recover from the stumble it took against Utah at home. What stands in their way is a fairly deep Beavers team that has slowly lost its depth due to injuries and the like to Angus Brandt and Eric Moreland.
Brandt blew his ACL after playing in 4 games for the Beavers. Brandt was posting 11.3 points and 8.5 rebounds per game before the injury and his senior leadership will be sorely missed. Moreland on the hand, is back after missing 3 games near the start of conference play having played 27 minutes against USC most recently, but only notching 3 points on 1-3 shooting. For the season, Moreland is playing absolutely fantastic with a double-double average of 10.3 points and 10.9 boards a night. At 6-10 215lbs Moreland is a bit underweight for a player his height, but has certainly proven he can handle himself in the paint with a season high of 18 rebounds coming in a 1 point OT loss to the Towson Tigers.
Ahmad Starks remains the tiny sharpshooter that he has always been. Posting a 41% average from deep, the 5-9 165lb guard is as quick and skillful as ever averaging just over 11 points a night. Starks is not much of an inside threat due to his small stature, but when he is able to draw contact Starks is hitting 80% of his foul shots. The Dawgs continue to struggle with containing small guards and it will be interesting to see how well the Huskies can shutdown Starks.
6-8 215lb Devon Collier will do battle against Desmond Simmons. Collier is averaging a second best 14.4 points per night and is also pulling in a very respectable 7 rebounds per outing. Collier has broken the 20 point barrier five times this season and has only failed to reach double digits in 3 games, most recently with 9 points against UCLA and a 0 point game in 12 minutes on 0-1 shooting against New Mexico State.
Roberto Nelson is leading the Beaver in scoring during his junior season. The 6-3 195lb guard has elevated his game to a new level. Nelson posted a career high 34 against Chicago State in a 10 point win that included a 6-7 performance from outside the arc. Against USC, Nelson dropped in 26 with a perfect 10-10 night from the foul line. A team cannot ask a player to do much more than that. Nelson is actually averaging 45% from outside the arc the season, a few percentage points better than Starks, but has attempted 40 less shots. What I find most surprising is how deceptive his 76% free throw average is. Nelson posted a 13 of 14 night against then #10 Kansas and also went a perfect 8-8 against San Diego. When this kid finds his groove, he can really hurt the opposition.
The Huskies will need to return to the roots that won them 4 straight conference games, including 3 straight on the road as they enter the Beavers’ home court. The Dawgs have a lot to prove, but unfortunately an 0-5 Beaver squad will not be the team to quell the doubts many fans have about this team and this season. Let’s hope the Huskies do not disappoint again.