Even a defensive aficionado like Craig Robinson can admire and marvel at such an offensive display.
CORVALLIS, Ore. — Without a television broadcast to provide visual highlights, the news of Quincy Pondexter’s big night Thursday at Oregon quickly spread around the college basketball world via blogs, Twitter updates and text messages.
Thirty-four points. Ten rebounds. Six assists.
Even a defensive aficionado like Craig Robinson can admire and marvel at such an offensive display. The Oregon State coach had just walked on the Gill Coliseum court to prepare for Saturday’s matchup against Pondexter and the Washington Huskies when he considered the challenge at hand.
“If he has a game like he had last night, we’re in trouble,” Robinson said Friday afternoon. “I’m not afraid to say that. We’re in trouble.
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“We have been good at keeping the other team’s guys under their averages. If we can do that with him, that’s mission accomplished.”
Consider Robinson an unabashed Pondexter fan since the UW senior had 20 points and 10 rebounds against the Beavers on New Year’s Eve in a 76-70 UW victory at Edmundson Pavilion.
Regarding the Pac-10 Player of the Year race, the Oregon State coach weighed heavily in favor of Pondexter.
“People argue with me,” Robinson said laughing. “I think Jerome Randle is a great player, but if you’re looking at the player of the year in my eyes, he’s done more to damage us than Randle has. That guy is dangerous as far as I’m concerned.”
Robinson paused and contemplated Pondexter wearing an OSU jersey and spearheading the Beavers’ bothersome 1-3-1 zone that has helped hold opponents to 60.4 points per game (21st in the nation). They are first in steals in the Pac-10, averaging 8.3.
“I’d love to have him and put him at the top of the zone because he has the athleticism to really make it effective,” Robinson said. “That would be interesting.
“But then we’ve got a guy (Seth Tarver) there right now who’s pretty good too, and I wouldn’t trade him for the world.”
Tarver, one of four seniors playing their final regular-season game at Gill Coliseum, is the proverbial straw that stirs Oregon State’s drink. The Beavers ability to apply defensive pressure is directly linked to the 6-foot-5, 210-pound wing.
“I’ve seen so many different strategies and tactics against us,” Tarver said. “I’ve seen so much, I know what to expect.”
Tarver has the size and quickness to contest outside shots, which was evident in the first half Thursday against Washington State when OSU held the Cougars to 15 points on 4-for-16 shooting.
The Beavers carried an 18-point lead into halftime and held on for a 59-55 victory. It was the 14th time OSU had held an opponent to fewer than 60 points.
“We’re always concerned going against Oregon State because we’ve got smaller guards, and it affects smaller guards, that press, that 1-3-1,” UW coach Lorenzo Romar said. “So we’re always concerned going against Oregon State.”
Size didn’t matter in the first meeting when 5-foot-8 Isaiah Thomas converted 7 of 13 shots, including 3 of 6 three-pointers, and had 19 points.
“You just have to know they’re going to get steals and you can’t get down on yourself,” Thomas said. “They practice that every day so they’re good at them.
“You got to be aggressive and attack (Tarver) and don’t let him lull you to sleep with how long he is.”
In the Washington game, Tarver (eight points, five rebounds, five assists and three steals) had a chance to be the hero before missing a layup in the final seconds.
The Huskies led 69-58 with less than five minutes left when Oregon State made a comeback and twice pulled within three points in the final 1:27. The Beavers managed just two points the rest of the way while UW sank five of six free throws.
Admittedly, Thursday’s victory was more important because it guaranteed the Beavers at least a seventh seed in next week’s Pac-10 Tournament.
The Washington rematch, Robinson said, will gauge how much both teams have improved since the conference opener.
“This game will be important because (they’re) considered one of the premier teams in the league still,” he said. “I don’t care what anybody says. (They are) very athletic and very much playing to try to get into the NCAA tournament as an at large.
“So we’re going to get their best shot.”
Washington (20-9, 10-7 Pac-10), which has won three straight games and eight of its last 10, is third in the conference. The Huskies could secure a No. 2 seed or fall to fourth.
Meanwhile, the Beavers (14-15, 8-9) are seeking their first three-game winning streak, which could improve them to a fourth seed in the conference tourney.
“We’re in a good place mentally,” Robinson said. “As long as we play a good game, this will be a positive for us.
“I’m not saying we’re looking forward to losing. I want to play this team like we’re on par with them. I don’t want to play like we’re the little brothers trying to beat the big brothers.”
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or firstname.lastname@example.org