By Randy Rosetta
Inspin.com/WagerWeb.com Contributing Writer
With five Pac-10 teams ranked, every weekend figures to be challenging for every team.
For a team like Oregon State, that’s particularly true. The 0-3 Beavers travel to the desert to face 10th-ranked Arizona on Thursday night at 8:30 EST and then to Tempe to take on Arizona State on Saturday.
Tonight’s game is a major challenge, as the Beavers are 17-44 all-time against the Wildcats and haven’t won in Tucson since 1983 – when Ralph Miller was still on the Oregon State bench and Lute Olson was still at Iowa.
The Beavers are 0-3 against ranked foes this season, but did manage to split with Arizona last year.
Oregon State will likely need to heat up from 3-point range to stick around with the Wildcats. In four Pac-10 losses, the Beavers have been outshot from long range, with opponents hitting 25-of-51 (49 percent) and OSU connecting on only 14-of-58 (24.1 percent).
Marcel Jones’ emergence as one of the Pac-10’s best players has leveled off in league play, as his points per game have dipped to 12.3 in three games. But the 6-foot-8 junior has produced 20 points or more five times this season and will be a key against the Wildcats and Sun Devils.
Another key for the Beavers will be to keep Arizona off the free-throw line. The Wildcats were 36-of-39 from the stripe last week vs. Washington and Washington State, anchored by Mustafa Shakur’s 16-for-16 effort. Shakur has made 24 foul shots in a row, including all 22 he has taken in Pac-10 games.
Arizona is a whopping 23-point favorite on WagerWeb.com.
OREGON at ARIZONA STATE, 10:30 p.m. EST: The Sun Devils struggled through their non-conference season with a 6-5 record and have dropped their first four league games – three by double digits. ASU is getting strong play from sophomore forward Jeff Pendergraph, who is averaging a double-double (14.1 points and 10.2 rebounds) over the last nine games. He is the league’s second-leading shooter at 58.2 percent (78-of-134) and ranks third in the Pac-10 with 9.3 boards a game. Freshman Christian Polk is the Devils’ top scorer with 13.7 points a contest. Pendergraph and Polk are combining for 26.3 points a game in Pac-10 play. Oregon’s Aaron Brooks comes in red-hot after winning Pac-10 Player of the Week honors with 56 points in the Ducks’ split with Southern California and UCLA last weekend. Brooks’ 25 points against the Bruins included the game-winning jump shot with 13 seconds to go as OU beat a No. 1 team for the first time since 1974. Brooks’ breakout weekend boosted him to the top of the Pac-10 scoring charts with 18.1 points a game. Ducks forward Maarty Leunen has grabbed 7 rebounds or more in 14 games this season and 10 or more seven times. Oregon is 3-0 on the road this season after winning only three games away from Eugene in each of the last two seasons. The Ducks are 7.5-point favorites on WagerWeb.com.
No. 22 WASHINGTON STATE at California, 10:30 p.m. EST: The Cougars are ranked for the first time since 1983 after sweeping a Pac-10 weekend last week for the first time since 2001. No. 7 Arizona was the highest-ranked opponent Washington State had beaten since 1983 when the Cougars toppled sixth-ranked UCLA. Forward Devan Harmeling erupted for a career-high 28 points against the Wildcats, hitting 7-of-11 from 3-point range to increase his accuracy from outside the arc to 60 percent (12-of-20) in Pac-10 games. Guard Kyle Weaver was also key against ’Zona with 15 points, 10 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 steals and a pair of blocked shots. California snapped a 13-game losing streak at Stanford last week, sparked by guard Ayinde Ubaka’s season-high 26 points. The Bears have knocked down 33-of-81 3-pointers (40.7 percent) over the last four games. Cal has beaten WSU four times in a row and has claimed 10 of the last 11 meetings in Berkley. The Bears are 2-point favorites on WagerWeb.com.
WASHINGTON at STANFORD, 10:30 p.m. EST: The Huskies finally got in the Pac-10 win column by churning out a 64-53 triumph vs. Arizona State last Saturday. Washington coach Lorenzo Romar inserted freshman Phil Nelson into the starting lineup, and he responded with 16 points, anchored by 6-of-8 shooting (4-of-5 from 3-point territory). Jon Brockman continues to be one of the league’s top rebounders (10 per game) with double-digit totals in five of the last six games. UW guard Ryan Appleby is shooting 51.7 percent (15-of-29) from long range in league play. Stanford is still seeking its identity and could use a boost with wins over Washington, WSU or both. The Cardinal have beaten the Huskies 13 times in a row in Maples Pavilion. Senior forward Fred Washington has emerged as a solid reserve with 22 points, 15 rebounds and 13 assists in the last two games. Stanford is a 2.5-point favorite on WagerWeb.com.
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