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USC BASKETBALL

Beavers will try to beat Trojans again

First victory signaled that Oregon State wasn't going to be a bad team again, and USC needs this one.

March 07, 2009|Chris Foster

There appears to be nothing about the Oregon State basketball team that should cause a coach to toss and turn at night. The Beavers are seemingly as benign a bunch as you could hope for in a regular-season finale.

USC should know better heading into today's game.

The Trojans probably can still see the arcing three-pointer by Roeland Schaftenaar that sent the first game between the two into overtime. They can remember the 15-point lead that was frittered away in the last 13 minutes -- a harbinger of blown leads to come for USC -- as Oregon State ended its 21-game Pacific 10 Conference losing streak.

USC Coach Tim Floyd was certain of two things after that 62-58 overtime loss in January.

"Oregon State will win more than one [conference] game this season," he had said. And, "They are a difficult team to play when you have one day to prepare."

Well, Oregon State has won seven conference games and the Beavers remain a difficult team to play when you have only one day to prepare for their fingernails-on-chalkboard offense.

That first victory showed that Oregon State wasn't all bad and that USC wasn't all that.

"When we lost, you'd have thought we lost to a snappy junior high team by the way everyone reacted to it," Floyd said.

The only way for USC to avoid the conference tournament play-in game Wednesday is by beating Oregon State (13-15 overall, 7-10 in conference play) at the Galen Center. This, though, isn't the gimme it was last season.

Oregon State has a 4-3 record when conference opponents have one day to prepare. That is a link to the annoyingly patient offensive scheme, compared to Princeton, which first-year Coach Craig Robinson, a Princeton graduate, dangles before opponents.

"It's a completely different style of play than anybody we play against in our conference that we have seen in three [previous] years," Floyd said. "It's back cuts versus coming off screens. They have a 7-footer that is a point guard. It's a trapping defense that we don't see in this league."

The Beavers have a harmless look in the conference statistical breakdowns. They are last in scoring, last in free-throw percentage, last in offensive rebounding, last in home attendance.

Schaftenaar, who is 6-11, averages as many assists as rebounds (3.4 to 3.2) and usually loiters just beyond the three-point line. Calvin Haynes, a 6-foot-2 guard, is the Beavers' inside presence, penetrating to the tune of 15 points a game. It all seems backward.

"It's all new to our players and you have 24 hours to try to prepare," Floyd said.

Going to great depths

Floyd used nine players in the first half of an 80-66 victory over Oregon on Thursday. He seemed to be taking his team's depth out for a test drive before the conference tournament, particularly those players who have had injuries: Marcus Simmons (ankle), Leonard Washington (ankle) and Marcus Johnson (shoulder).

Simmons, a 6-foot-6 perimeter player, has played 65 minutes in the last three games after playing 24 minutes in the previous 14 conference games.

"We wanted to look at some of these other guys," Floyd said. "Marcus Simmons is one of the guys we're going to continue to use. . . . There is a little bit of confidence he got last week and it's the first time he has been healthy all year long."

Johnson, who sat out the previous seven games because of a strained rotator cuff, logged four minutes in the first half against Oregon.

"To sit out four weeks and come back after two practices, you are not going to be at complete game speed," Floyd said. "He'll be better for those four minutes and he'll play more [tonight]."

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chris.foster@latimes.com

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