CORVALLIS, Ore. - It's often tough to learn much from exhibition basketball games, but if Sunday night's 83-58 win over Lewis & Clark at Gill Coliseum showed anything, it's that Oregon State will be more balanced on offense and deeper this season than it was a year ago.
Twelve of the 15 players who saw action for the Beavers scored, with eight of them chipping in at least six points, and nobody played more than 25 minutes against the small, but scrappy team from the Portland area. After building a 39-28 lead at halftime, Oregon State climbed to a 28-point advantage in the second half and cruised the rest of the way in a game it never trailed.
"It sure is nice getting the season going," Oregon State head coach Craig Robinson said. "We really needed a game against someone other than ourselves. I thought tonight's game was a good test for us. Lewis & Clark has nothing to be ashamed of and I'm glad they came to play tonight. When we schedule these games, we try to make it hard on ourselves. We thought that playing a team with a lot of guards would test our man-to-man defense. They did a great job of driving to the basket and trying to get around our bigger guys. There is a lot of stuff to be happy about."
Junior point guard Ahmad Starks controlled the pace of the game in the first half and then did what he does best in the second half by going 3-of-3 from beyond the arc to finish with a team-high 14 points and game-high four assists. He made 4-of-5 three-point attempts in the game but was applauded more for the way he directed the team.
"I thought Ahmad did not look for his shot as much today," Robinson said. "He was more of a playmaker in this game. He only played 23 minutes and had four assists. He was really leading the team out there. He was calling almost all of the plays. I called the first three plays of the game and Ahmad took over from there."
Junior forward Devon Collier came off the bench and provided instant offense and defense, finishing with 12 points, three rebounds, two assists, three blocked shots, three steals and no turnovers. He made all five of his field goal attempts and could become a regular in the sixth-man role.
"This year, since Roberto is in the starting line-up, we need to find someone to fill that sixth-man spot," Robinson said. "We need to find someone who is a good defense and offense guy straight off the bench, and playing starter's minutes, but just not right at the beginning of the game. Devon was playing that role in practice, and we will see how it goes in the next few games."
Senior Joe Burton was his usual do-everything self with six points and six boards, while junior Roberto Nelson added 10 points and sophomore Eric Moreland finished with six points and a game-high nine rebounds. Senior Angus Brandt and freshman Jarmal Reid added six points apiece and freshman Olaf Schaftenaar came off the bench gunning to finish with nine points, including two from long distance.
In a box score filled with names and numbers, Robinson was most pleased about his team's control of the ball (only eight turnovers) and free throw percentage (81 percent on 17-of-21 shooting). The Beavers outscored Lewis & Clark 12-0 on fast break points and 25-12 on points off turnovers.
"Turnovers are a point of emphasis this season," he said. "We had four in the first half and four in the second, and we only had one player with more than one, which was really good to see. The other point of emphasis was our foul shots. We were 17-for-21 overall, which was a good start to our season. We just need to carry this over to our next games."
The Beavers open their season for real when they host Niagara at 6 p.m. on Friday at Gill Coliseum in the regional round of the 2K Sports Classic benefiting Wounded Warrior Project. It will be the debut of the Oregon State men's basketball team on the Pac-12 Networks with JB Long and Lamar Hurd calling the action.