OSU men’s basketball struggling with consistency

by Michael Kiever Sports Reporter

Coming off an unexpectedly successful 2014-2015 campaign, Oregon State men’s basketball entered this season with a fair amount of hype. After all, star senior guard Gary Payton II decided to return for his senior season, and the 2015 recruiting class was one of the most highly touted groups that the program has ever seen. With Payton II at the helm and newly infused talent, many were excited to see what head coach Wayne Tinkle could do with a few more weapons at his disposal.

Now past the midpoint of the season, the Beavers (15-9, 6-7) have had their fair share of up-and-down performances. OSU’s dominating first Pac-12 victory over Oregon started the season off well, and the Beavers’ recently strung together a three-game winning streak over solid opponents in Utah, Colorado and Stanford.

While the team has found recent success, there are some areas for concern if the team hopes to reach the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1990. Namely, rebounding and scoring have been the biggest issues. OSU ranks dead last and 11th in the Pac-12 in those two categories, respectively.

The deficiencies in rebounding and scoring largely stem from the lack of production from the veteran players. While Payton II’s improved play will likely put him in the conversation for Pac-12 player of the year, the same cannot be said about his peers.

Seniors Daniel Gomis, Langston Morris-Walker, Jarmal Reid, Olaf Schaftenaar and junior guard Malcolm Duvivier have all seen statistical dropoffs in scoring from last year.

There have been less minutes to go around with the team having added depth, but the freshmen are still far from complete players. In theory, they should have the luxury of playing and growing behind their older teammates. However, the seniors’ on-court production has been less than stellar, forcing the freshmen into additional playing time.

Particularly,Duvivier and Morris-Walker have not played up to expectations. The duo both began the season as starters, but Morris-Walker has already been replaced in favor of freshman forward Tres Tinkle. Freshman guard Stephen Thompson Jr. has also made a case to replace Duvivier in the starting lineup with his recent string of big games. It is no wonder why Morris-Walker and Duvivier have seen their minutes dwindle, as both are shooting under 40 percent from the field and under 63 percent from the free throw line.

The veterans have struggled to make much of an impact in rebounding as well. Big man Gomis and junior center Cheikh N’Diaye have barely been able to see the floor, and when they do finally see the light of day, the fouls mount up quickly, forcing them back onto the bench.

Rebounding should not be an overlooked statistic for the Beavers.In OSU’s five of six Pac-12 victories, they either tied or outrebounded their opponents, and in all seven of their Pac-12 losses, the Beavers were outrebounded.

Point guard Payton II is currently the team’s leading rebounder with 7.7 boards per game, which is more than key rotational frontcourt members Reid and Schaftenaar rebound per game combined.

Having a point guard that rebounds as much as Payton II has helped keep the Beavers afloat so far, but his efforts alone may not be enough to take the Beavers to the NCAA tournament. The seniors need to find a way to step up their game to give OSU a fighting chance.