Oregon Trail II; Cougar basketball faces Beavers

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Oregon Trail II; Cougar basketball faces Beavers

Redshirt senior forward D.J. Shelton drives to the hoop during a home game against Stanford, Saturday, Feb. 15.

Redshirt senior forward D.J. Shelton drives to the hoop during a home game against Stanford, Saturday, Feb. 15.

Redshirt senior forward D.J. Shelton drives to the hoop during a home game against Stanford, Saturday, Feb. 15.

Redshirt senior forward D.J. Shelton drives to the hoop during a home game against Stanford, Saturday, Feb. 15.

Evan Baron | Evergreen Men's Basketball reporters

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The Cougars will head up the river tonight, but they must break the dam the Oregon State Beavers have built in order to continue upstream and attain victory.

The WSU men’s basketball team plans to take on the Beavers at 6 p.m. in Corvallis, Ore. A win against the Beavers would give the Cougars their third conference victory of the season and momentum heading into the Pac-12 Tournament.

“We’re going to have to do a good job,” WSU men’s basketball Head Coach Ken Bone said. “They’re a different Oregon State team than they’ve been in the past, and I believe it’s the best Oregon State team I’ve seen in probably the last 10 years.”

The Cougars could not stay afloat in late January when they lost at home to Oregon State by 11 points.

“A lot of things are coming together, but we haven’t hit what you can say our ‘peak’ yet,” WSU junior guard DaVonte Lacy said.

Here are four key areas the Cougars must execute if they want to get past the Beaver dam and attain victory.

Stop Nelson

Oregon State senior guard Roberto Nelson is the main offensive weapon for the Beavers. The last time the Cougars faced Oregon State, Nelson led the Beavers in scoring with 26 points.

“He’s a good ball player, he knows how to score,” Bone said. “I love the way he plays, his game has transformed with maturity and just understanding how to get points, but he’s scoring every which way and he’s good at.”

Nelson is currently averaging 21.3 points a game this season.

“Like any great player, you don’t stop a player, you just slow him down,” Lacy said. “So I think we’re going to have to use all our height and athletic ability and our size to slow him down because he’s going to score, that’s what he does.”

Contain the big men

Another player who hurt the Cougars in their last meeting with the Beavers is Oregon State redshirt senior center Angus Brandt. The Beavers started the contest by feeding their 6-foot-10, 246 pound center. Brandt finished the game with 14 points.

“Angus came out and kind of took it at us last game,” WSU redshirt senior forward D.J. Shelton said. “So I think we need to watch a little bit more film and see how he hurt us, kind of push him off the block or maybe double team him earlier in the game so he won’t be effective.”

The other Oregon State big man, Eric Moreland, measures 6 feet 11 inches and 218 pounds and scored six points during the Beavers’ win against the Cougars.

Spread out the scoring

Lacy was out with a rib injury during the last meeting between WSU and Oregon State, so his return provides a spark for the Cougar fan base. To increase the chances of coming out on top, other players on the team must step up as well.

“It can’t just be DaVonte comes back and scores 15 or 20 (points), we need Que, D.J., we need a lot of guys to step their game up,” Bone said.

With Lacy returning to the lineup, the team has had to make the adjustment of not only allowing their captain to score the majority of the points but for the rest of the team to score as well.

“We’re both good scorers, so whoever has the hot hand that day they’ll get more shots,” redshirt freshman guard Que Johnson said.

If WSU wants to knock off the Beavers on the road, at least three players must score in double figures.

Stay mentally focused

Although the Cougars have lost eight of their last 10 Pac-12 games, Lacy said the team has done all they can physically, but mentally there’s room for improvement.

“It’s not about running, it’s not about getting in shape right now, it’s not about lifting or getting stronger, it’s all about mental right now,” Lacy said. “I think that’s what we got to sharpen up if we really want to make a run at the end of the year running into the Pac-12 Tournament.”

Lacy mentioned the team must have the mentality of always improving and sharpening up things that decide games which includes turnovers.

“Even though someone’s at the top of the conference, someone’s at the bottom, it’s going to be a one possession, two possession game each game,” Lacy said. “So when you limit your mistakes, you give yourself a better chance to win.”