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Basketball: Oregon State scouting report

If you’re headed to Haas Pavilion on Thursday night, expect to see a lot of zone defense. From both teams.

For his 2 1/2 seasons in Corvallis, coach Craig Robinson’s Oregon State squad has made a living playing zone defense — a lot of it a tricky 1-3-1 alignment. Recently, Cal has folded the zone into its defensive plans.

It’s a departure for Cal coach Mike Montgomery, who much prefers man-to-man defense. Asked how he thinks the Bears have fared in a zone, Montgomery called it a “mixed bag.”

But given the Bears’ personnel issues — especially their lack of depth in the backcourt — the zone has been a lifesaver. 

“I don’t know that we have a lot of choice, just from the standpoint of fouls and fatigue,” Montgomery said. “In order to play effectively in man — not that you don’t have to play hard in the zone — but you’ve really got to get up and sprint off screens and doubles and staggers, you’re constantly on the run.

“In the zone, at least your movement is restricted a little bit as far as where you have to go.”

 The Bears played zone much of the night against both UCLA and USC last weekend, with the mixed results to which Monty referred. The Bruins (10 for 24) and Trojans (11 for 26) combined to make 42 percent of their 3-pointers, but Cal successfully contained USC star forward Nikola Vucevic.

Montgomery said he’d never seen UCLA shoot the 3-pointer so effectively, and USC’s Donte Smith went for a career-high eight 3-pointers.

“Some people will shred it and then you’re stuck with a decision, whether you stay or what do you do,” Montgomery said. “Other people have problems against a zone.”

The Bears have tweaked their zone, going bigger to protect and rest their guards.

Either way, don’t be surprised to see more of it.

“It’s just that they’ve got a little bit of confidence,” he said of his team’s brief experience in the zone. “The other team’s not running around (because) you’ve got to be patient (against the zone). It allows (us) to maybe take a deep breath.”

Of course, there is a flip side to this.

“We haven’t played against a zone in a long time,” Montgomery said, “so we’re not sure how we’re going to react.”

OSU SCOUT: The Beavers still rely on their zone defenses to create pressure and turnovers (a conference-best 17.3 per game), and OSU leads the nation in steals at 10.6 per game. Despite that, OSU has not been a good defensive team this season. The Beavers rank last in the Pac-10 in scoring defense (72.4 ppg), field-goal defense (.464) and 3-point defense (.373). They are ninth in rebounding margin (minus-1.8) and ninth in assist-to-turnover ratio (0.9) . . . Sophomore G Jared Cunningham (San Leandro HS) has become the Beavers’ best player at both ends of the floor. He leads the team in scoring and is tied for second nationally with 3.11 steals per game . . . Redshirt freshman G Roberto Nelson has moved into the starting lineup the past two games, relegating senior Calvin Haynes, the team’s No. 2 scorer, to the sixth-man role . . . The Beavers are averaging 72.5 ppg, but rank last in the Pac-10 in 3-point accuracy (.306).

MONTY ON OREGON STATE: “They’re a little more uptempo, might shoot it a little earlier than they have in the past. They’re not necessarily looking to run clock. Cunningham, Haynes can score a little bit quicker. They mix up their 2-3 and 1-3-1 zone. They use the 1-3-1 to try to get things going, put a lot of energy into it. (Cunningham) is very, very explosive, playing with a lot of confidence. Actually shooting a good percentage from the outside (.438), so that’s an added dimension. But he’s probably more of a driver. He’s had some tips and dunks and so forth that are pretty impressive . . . They’ve been a little bit up and down. And I don’t know  whether they’ve not always put the same amount of energy into it or what.  They’ve been real good on ocassion. And then other times not been quite as good.”

WHO’S HOT: Cal freshman Allen Crabbe is averaging 16.6 ppg in Pac-10 play and is shooting 47.2 percent from the 3-point arc in those seven games . . . Cal’s Harper Kamp is scoring 19.5 ppg the past four games

WHO’S NOT: Aside from senior reserve Lathen Wallace (who was 5 for 10), the Beavers’ guards shot a combined 7 for 28 in the OSU’s 63-59 home loss to Oregon on Saturday  . . .  Cal junior Jorge Gutierrez is shooting just 13 for 41 (31.7 percent) the past four games.

THE SERIES: Cal leads 75-59, but has dropped four of the past five meetings. Even while splitting two games a year ago, the Bears struggled against OSU’s 1-3-1 zone defense, shooting a combined 9 for 38 from the 3-point arc. A lot of that was Pac-10 Player of the Year Jerome Randle, who missed all 11 of his 3-pointers in the two games vs. OSU. “I think it got into Jerome’s head a little bit, took away some of the things he likes to do,” Montgomery said of the Beavers’ defense. “Brandon (Smith) has been pretty good at handling that kind of stuff. He’ll figure it out.”

ETCETERA: This is just Cal’s third conference home game and its first since classes resumed. “I would hope they will turn out. They really haven’t had an opportunity until now,” Montgomery said, urging students to attend. “This team’s played pretty hard and deserves some support.” . . . Cal is third in the Pac-10 in average attendance at 8.006 per game . . . OSU coach Craig Robinson has started nine different players. Only six current members of the Cal roster have started, including Bak Bak, who started one game.

TIPOFF: 8 p.m. Thursday at Haas Pavilion. TV: CSNBA. Radio: 910-AM.

Cal (10-9, 3-4)

Starters Ht Yr Pts Rebs
PF Harper Kamp 6-8 Jr. 14.4 5.6
C Markhuri Sanders-Frison 6-7 Sr. 10.2 7.9
SF Allen Crabbe 6-6 Fr. 11.5 5.4
SG Jorge Gutierrez 6-3 Jr. 11.9 4.1*
PG Brandon Smith 5-11 So. 5.2 3.2*
Key reserves
F Richard Solomon 6-9 Fr. 5.6 4.2
F Bak Bak 6-9 So. 2.5 2.4
G Emerson Murray 6-3 Fr. 0.4 0.5

*Assists

Oregon State (8-10, 3-4)

Starters Ht Yr Pts Rebs
C Angus Brandt 6-10 So. 5.2 2.7
PF Omari Johnson 6-9 So. 8.6 6.3
SF Devon Collier 6-7 So. 4.8 3.1
SG Roberto Nelson 6-3 Fr. 9.0 2.4
PG Jared Cunningham 6-4 So. 14.3 3.2
Key reserves
G Calvin Haynes 6-2 Sr. 10.2 3.2
G Lathen Wallace 6-3 Sr. 8.2 2.4
C/F Joe Burton 6-7 So. 8.2 5.2

*Assists

Jeff Faraudo