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Cal Men’s Basketball vs. Oregon State: Preview

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Can Cal dominate on the road?

Charlie Moore and the Bears look to end their road trip on a high note.
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

After a lopsided loss to Oregon, Cal basketball finds itself at 13-6 and 4-3 in the Pac-12. The Bears’ next destination is Corvallis as they face off with Oregon State. Don Coleman was healthy enough to return against the Ducks, so he’ll be an option on the second leg of the trip as well. Meanwhile, Kameron Rooks has had fairly consistent playing time over the last four games after his return from injury. Sam Singer and Stephen Domingo have made recent contributions off the bench, but Jabari Bird has become the go-to shooter alongside Grant Mullins. Bird certainly was a rare bright spot against the Ducks, piling up 21 points. Charlie Moore can be dynamic from the point guard position but was involved in some sloppy play on Thursday night. Kingsley Okoroh has been a steady overall presence in the lineup alongside centerpiece Ivan Rabb.

Very little has gone well so far for the OSU basketball program. Six of their best players left after the 2015-16 campaign, leaving coach Wayne Tinkle looking for answers. According to Tinkle: “We’ve shown we can compete with the best teams in the league, but have not beat them yet.” His son, forward Tres Tinkle, averaged 20 points over six games but has been missing since November with a wrist injury. Senior center Cheikh N’diaye has also missed multiple games with a shoulder ailment. Now, the Beavers are a woeful 4-15 overall including 0-6 in conference play after falling to Stanford 62-46. OSU was at least respectable last season with a 9-9 record in the Pac-12 and 19-13 for the year.

Projected lineup

G Jaquori McLaughlin - 6’4” Fr. - 11.2 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 2.5 apg

Had a rough game in the Civil War against the Ducks but is hitting 39% of his attempts from downtown. His hometown of Gig Harbor, Washington is just fun to say.

G Stephen Thompson, Jr. - 6’4” So. - 15.2 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 3.5 apg

Scored 49 total points against the Los Angeles teams in Corvallis, so he’s someone to look out for despite his lack of success on three-pointers. OSU’s offense often goes through him as well: he’s gathered seven assists on three occasions already.

G Kendal Manuel - 6’4” Fr. - 8.0 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 1.7 apg

Enduring some growing pains as he adapts to NCAA play, but that’s not for lack of talent. The Montana native had a standout game at Washington State, burying 6 of 9 shots behind the arc.

F Drew Eubanks - 6’10” So. - 14.3 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 2.4 bpg

The most consistent Beaver these days and a constant double-double threat: he’s firing 58% from the field and gives maximum effort on the glass. Has never appeared on a Jay Leno program.

C Gligorije Rakocevic - 6’11” So. - 2.7 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 0.2 bpg

His native Montenegro is 6,000 miles from campus. Has improved upon last season in most categories, but his foul shooting needs work.

Key reserves

G Ronnie Stacy - 6’4” Jr. - 2.7 ppg, 2.2 rpg

Junior college transfer is a defensive stopper.

G Tanner Sanders - 6’5” So. - 0.7 ppg, 1.3 rpg

All around-athlete didn’t need to leave home to play at OSU. Plays baseball for the Beavers and used to be a member of the football team as well.

F Ben Kone - 6’8” Fr. - 2.8 ppg, 2.6 rpg

The Archbishop Mitty (San Jose) product played his first collegiate game on December 11 after battling an injury but has struggled with his shot so far.

F Matt Dahlen - 6’6” Jr. - 1.6 ppg, 2.4 rpg

A nominal starter until Tinkle removed him on Thursday, he only plays about a dozen minutes on any given night anyway. Mostly in there to collect fouls and grab a rebound or two.

Winning strategies

1. Stick with what works defensively.

The Beavers are among the worst offensive teams in the nation. They’re 324th in efficiency, which makes Cal’s output look good at #157. What’s more, OSU plays at an even slower pace than Cuonzo Martin’s group. With every possession magnified, the Bears can’t get caught out of position and give up easy hoops. Oregon held the Beavers to 43 points, and the Ducks are dead even with Cal when it comes to defensive rating. According to Martin: “You need all five guys to stop great players.”

2. Channel last season.

In 2015-16, Bird enjoyed two big games against the Beavers: one at Haas and the other during the conference tournament. He shot a scorching 64% including 60% on three-pointers for a cool 43 total points. Rabb was quiet in the first encounter but made up for it in Las Vegas with 21 points on 9-11 shooting and 15 rebounds. Imagine the possibilities against this year’s weaker version of the Beavers.

3. Get Rabb going again.

Martin had been pleased with Rabb’s recent play heading into Thursday’s game, but he had a game to forget in Eugene. In general, Rabb has adapted well to opposing defensive schemes, particularly in the recent home games against the Washington schools. As Martin put it, “It's like they're not even doubling, the way he makes decisions with the basketball.” Czar Ivan scored no fewer than 14 points in the six games prior to facing Oregon, so still he deserves all the touches he can get.

4. Blanket Eubanks.

The sophomore forward is OSU’s most efficient scorer, and it’s hard to imagine the Bears losing if he plays poorly. Eubanks is an excellent finisher inside which pairs well with his respectable midrange game. Cal defenders should be prepared to rotate when he’s near the basket.

5. Play under control.

Charlie Moore had his first game without a turnover against the Cougars, which Martin said is a sign of growth from his point guard. In fact, Cal committed just seven in that game which was tightly contested nevertheless. Unfortunately, things went less smoothly against the #11 team in the country. Regardless, the Bears rank among the top third of Division I teams in that measure. The Beavers are near the bottom having made 16.4 per contest, so hopefully the Bears will profit from the turnover margin.

Martin was complimentary when discussing OSU, calling them “a talented team, a young team.” Nevertheless, Ken Pomeroy (kenpom.com) is 82% confident that Cal will win despite playing on the road. Let’s face it: the Bears can’t get tripped up at Gill Coliseum if they have any hope for an at-large tournament bid.

Meaningless Prediction: Cal 70, Oregon State 59

How to follow: Pac-12 Networks on TV, KGO 810 AM on radio, TuneIn.com on radio stream, 7:30 PM PT on Saturday, Jan 21

Go Bears!