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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Free-throw shots just the start of OSU’s problems

    UA forward Marcus Williams goes up for a rebound against Oregon States Kyle Jeffers, left, and Marcel Jones, right, in Arizonas 83-72 win over the Beavers Jan. 11 in McKale Center. Jones dropped 26 points on the Wildcats in that game, but his Beavers have struggled to win just one Pacific 10 Conference game.
    UA forward Marcus Williams goes up for a rebound against Oregon State’s Kyle Jeffers, left, and Marcel Jones, right, in Arizona’s 83-72 win over the Beavers Jan. 11 in McKale Center. Jones dropped 26 points on the Wildcats in that game, but his Beavers have struggled to win just one Pacific 10 Conference game.

    To say the Oregon State men’s basketball team is struggling would be an understatement.

    At this point, the Beavers can’t even make a free throw.

    OSU returns to Corvallis, Ore., tonight to face No. 24 Arizona after a horrendous four-game road trip against the Washington and Los Angeles schools.

    The Beavers lost all four contests, including a 47-point loss to No. 2 UCLA , and shot 33.3 percent (25-of-75) – from the free-throw line.

    That’s even worse than its season mark from the stripe (a Pacific 10 Conference-worst 57.6 percent) and not even close to Arizona’s 74.8 percent mark.

    “”In all my years – and this goes back to grade-school coaching – those guys, when they walked up, you never knew what was going to happen, but at least one of them would bank something in,”” said OSU head Jay John, a former UA assistant coach. “”We don’t even bank it in, so I know (my team’s) better than that.””

    Free-throw shooting is only the start of the problems for a Beaver squad whose only conference win in 11 tries came against winless ASU.

    John said his team’s offense impacts how it plays defense and competes, especially with leading scorers Marcel Jones and Sasa Cuic, both of whom have struggled at the line.

    “”They feel already that as primary scorers that they need to carry the team in any game, so then they go to the free-throw line and they miss, and it’s built on them that they have to carry the team,”” John said. “”Now they miss one free throw, and (think) ‘I’m goofing my teammates up again,’ and then it impacts how we defend, and that’s probably the single biggest problem we have.””

    To combat the problem, John has made free-throw shooting as game-like as possible in practice situations during the past two weeks of practice. The Beavers run sprints and then shoot free throws “”huffing and puffing,”” John said.

    Players gather around the foul line, catcalling the shooter, and a coach plays the role of referee, handing the shooter the ball. If the player misses, the squad runs, so there’s punishment and reward involved. John said he’s done everything but bring in artificial crowd noise, but getting the football team’s crowd-noise tape could be the next step.

    “”We’re making it (as) game-like as absolutely possible,”” he said.

    UA head coach Lute Olson said the Beavers’ overall problems stem from not playing as a team.

    “”It’s not about individual stats and those types of things,”” Olson said. “”I think it needs to get back the focus on team if that’s been the problem, and based on what I can see, it looks like too much individual thinking.””

    Cuic said there’s no formula or magic wand to get the team playing better, insisting instead that the squad just needs to get back to the basics.

    “”The whole team needs to be focused and on the same path to get the first win,”” he said. “”We’re not going to stop playing. “”

    Said Jones: “”Obviously the team’s a little shook, but we still have confidence in ourselves that every game is going to be a battle and a fight, with the exception of maybe a couple games, UCLA and USC up here (a 45-point loss). We’ve been in mostly every game up here. We’ll make sure we keep staying consistent working toward our main goal, which is a victory.””

    Jones has been the squad’s most consistent player, leading the team in scoring (15.8 points per game) and rebounding (5.8), except at the foul line where he shoots 58.6 percent. In the first game against the Wildcats, he led the Beavers with 26 points and eight boards in Arizona’s 83-72 win.

    “”He’s a really good player,”” said Olson, who will put UA forward Marcus Williams onJones. “”He’s not an easy guy to guard. He can shoot it, he’s a very good slasher, he crashes the offensive boards. He’ll draw a lot of attention.””

    The play of Cuic, a 6-foot-10 forward and the team’s go-to player the past two years, has been a mystery lately. He didn’t score against the Bruins and failed to grab a rebound in 24 minutes Jan. 27 at Washington.

    “”To go through Pac-10 games without a rebound, it makes no sense, so that needs to improve for him, no question,”” John said.

    “”He hasn’t produced as he has in the last couple years, and he will admit that. What explanation we have for him is the only way to get yourself out of your own personal slump is to go make energy plays,”” he said, adding that former Wildcat Richard Jefferson got himself out of a slump by making hustle plays when John coached in Tucson.

    Although the Beavers have no realistic chance at the postseason, Cuic said the squad still has the goal of winning five of its last seven and then making some noise in the Pac-10 Tournament.

    “”We’re ready to upset teams,”” he said. “”We have been working hard. To win against Arizona would be a great thing, a very big deal.””

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