— Sam Finley, EDN Sports Editor
It’s Civil War weekend. Here’s what’s at stake for the Ducks and Beavers.
Oregon Men Hoping To Stay Hot, Women May Have Found Momentum
The Oregon men’s basketball team has been on a roll as of late. Last Thursday, they dispatched USC 65-62. Two days later, they followed that up with a wild 75-68 win over UCLA. Now winners of four consecutive games, the Ducks currently find themselves holding a share of first place in the Pac-12. But while they’re hoping to stay on a hot streak, that won’t necessarily be the motivator for winning this Sunday against their state rival.
For some of the players, it really is a little more personal when it comes to Oregon State. Just ask senior guard Garrett Sim. His father played football at OSU, and he grew up a Beaver fan. Sim might’ve played there himself, but they didn’t really look at him. Thus, why he’s currently a Duck.
“I could’ve been interested in going there,” said Sim. “But they didn’t talk to me very much during the recruiting process. It is what it is, and that just makes me want to beat them even more.”
Taking the rivalry out of the equation, the Ducks find themselves playing a potentially dangerous squad. Sure, Oregon State is only 3-5 in conference play, but they’ve won two straight. Oregon head coach Dana Altman believes it’s going to require a solid effort to slow the Beavers down.
“They’re very talented,” Altman explained. “They’re long and athletic. The guards are quick. So it’s a very tough team to prepare for and we’re going to have to play very well.”
Meanwhile, the Oregon women’s basketball team is heading to Corvallis feeling relatively good about a lot of things. They get hammered 92-73 by USC last Thursday. However, the Ducks closed out their Southern California trip last Saturday with a shocking 82-63 win over UCLA. So they go into this Saturday afternoon’s game with some potential momentum.
But the 11-9 (3-5 in Pac-12) Ducks may have one more reason to smile: Senior Forward Amanda Johnson could be back in the lineup after weeks on the disabled list with an injured hand. Before Johnson went out, Oregon was scoring 87 points a game. After she got hurt, that number dropped to 76 points per contest. Johnson would love to get back in sooner than later, especially if it’s against the Beavers.
“We’re taking it day-by-day at this point,” said Johnson about her status. “I’ve been wearing a brace on my hand in practice. I’m hoping to play on Saturday, but that’ll depend on whether or not I’ll need to protect my injury.”
If Johnson cannot play, there is still reason for optimism against an upstart Oregon State squad. With the recent injuries to players like Johnson, it has forced others such as freshman guard Lexi Petersen, sophomore forward Danielle Love, and freshman forward Liz Brenner to step up. Head coach Paul Westhead is particularly pleased with Brenner, who joined the team last month after playing volleyball during the fall.
“Liz Brenner is a staple for us now,” Westhead explained. “A very good competitor who has found ways to score. I don’t think it was an accident that she’s averaged 15 points in our last two games, so she’s going to make baskets for us.”
Should the Ducks score enough baskets to beat the Beavers this weekend, it could provide the necessary boost to get them on a postseason run. But they have to play the game first.
Beavers Wish To Continue Winning Ways
The Oregon State men certainly righted their ship a week ago. Entering with a 1-5 conference record, there was reason to believe their season was dead in the water. But the Beavers edged UCLA 87-84 last Thursday, and then sucker punched USC 78-59 a couple days later.
Suddenly, OSU has an overall 13-7 record and has a legitimate chance at some type of postseason berth. Moreover, the Beavers could also be in a position to be a fly in their state rival’s ointment on Sunday at Matt Knight Arena.
An Oregon State victory would hamper the 15-5 Ducks’ chances of winning the Pac-12, as well as provide a little more fire in their fans’ regional bragging rights.
For that to happen, the Beavers will need stellar performances from their two guards. Jared Cunningham is leading OSU with just over 17 points per contest. Ahmad Starks is slightly behind him, scoring 13 points a game. If they can hit their shots, they’ll keep their team in the game and it might be enough to pull off an upset.
Over on the women’s side, it will be a travesty if Scott Rueck is not named Pac-12 coach of the year. He’s continued to impress the conference with how competitive his Beavers have been this season.
A week ago, they got a split on their L.A. trip. OSU dropped a 69-60 contest against UCLA last Thursday, but rebounded with a 65-61 win over the weekend against USC.
Yes, the Beavers are only 3-5 in Pac-12 play, but they’ve hardly been a pushover. In fact, most of their games have been very tough battles decided by a play here or there.
A big reason for that has been the performance of Ali Gibson. The freshman guard is leading the team in scoring with almost 13 points a game. They’ve also gotten solid play from Earlysia Marchbanks, who has been averaging 12 points per contest.
Should Oregon State hold home court against the Ducks, it’ll be one more significant step forward for a team that had to literally retool its roster a couple years ago. Whether or not they add that chapter to their storybook season will be determined on Saturday afternoon.