Jan 5, 2014, 4:22 PM EDT
After 14 games Oregon State is averaging 77.1 points per game, a mark that ranks sixth in the Pac-12, and their 49.9% shooting from the field ranks tenth nationally (fourth in the Pac-12). With talented scorers like guard Roberto Nelson and forwards Angus Brandt and Devon Collier, the points came early and often for the Beavers in non-conference play as they surpassed the 70-point mark in 11 of their 12 games before the start of Pac-12 play.
But in their opening conference games at No. 20 Colorado and Utah, Oregon State struggled offensively. In the two defeats Craig Robinson’s team averaged 63.5 points per game, shooting 43.9% from the field and turning the ball over an average of 16 times per game. With conference play usually meaning that there are few (if any) secrets thanks to familiarity, some adjustments need to be made if Oregon State is to hold its own in a Pac-12 that deeper and more talented than at any point in the three seasons prior.
One possible adjustment, according to Connor Letorneau and Jon Clifford of the Oregonian, could be to move freshman guard Hallice Cooke into the starting lineup in place of junior Challe Barton. The reason? Cooke, who played at St. Anthony HS in Jersey City for Bob Hurley Sr., has proven to be more of a threat offensively than Barton.
Promoting Cooke could prove a worthwhile solution. The rookie, after all, leads Barton in nearly every statistical category despite playing about three fewer minutes per game. He often sparks the Beavers’ second unit with hustle plays and three pointers.
Though OSU benefits having a potent shooter off the bench, it’s possible Cooke would bring necessary energy to a first five prone to sluggish starts.
Cooke’s averaging 5.9 points per game on the season, but over the last three games he’s averaged 10.0 points and 3.0 assists per contest while making ten of his 18 field goal attempts. Barton gives Oregon State an experienced defender who can be a helpful facilitator offensively, but with the amount of attention that Brandt, Collier and Nelson will receive from opponents the Beavers need a guard who’s both willing and able to knock down the looks that come as a result.
Oregon State’s next three games are in Corvallis but they’ll be difficult, as the Bay Area schools (Stanford and Cal) roll into town this week and in-state rival No. 10 Oregon the next. With that being the case, it’ll be interesting to see how Robinson and his staff deal with the Barton/Cooke question.
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