In case there was any question as to how much Oregon State would miss the suspended front court tandem of Devon Collier and Eric Moreland, we found out on Sunday night.
Collier and Moreland combined to average 22.0 points and 16.6 points per game last season, and without those two the Beavers struggled mightily on offense in their 78-73 loss to Coppin State. Senior Roberto Nelson established a new career high with 36 points on 12-for-26 shooting, but the rest of the team combined to shoot just 33.3% (11-for-33) from the field.
Angus Brandt, making his return to the court after missing most of last season with a torn ACL, scored 13 points and Victor Robbins added 11, but the majority of the scoring from Oregon State players other than Nelson came in the latter stages of the contest. Coppin State certainly deserves credit for the result, with point guard Taariq Cephas dishing out eight assists and Sterling Smith (21 points) and Arnold Fripp (17 points, nine rebounds) leading the way offensively.
And despite Oregon State’s status, this is an important victory for Fang Mitchell’s program when you consider the fact that the Eagles entered Sunday 0-16 all-time against Pac-12 opponents. And there’s also the matter of how poorly the MEAC as a whole has performed against “power conference” programs over the last two seasons.
The good news for Oregon State is that Collier will return from his suspension on Wednesday night when the Beavers host Portland, but this result does nothing for head coach Craig Robinson in a pivotal season for the program.
Oregon State was picked by the coaches to finish 10th in the Pac-12 this season, so the struggles are somewhat predictable. But these are the games a program looking to establish itself cannot afford to lose. In a conference that’s expected to be better this season (and also doesn’t lack for “hot seat” candidates), Oregon State needs all the wins they can get before league play starts in January.
And in order to turn things around, it’s quite obvious that they need some players to step up offensively to help Nelson with the heavy lifting.