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Beavers look to take a step up in Pac-12

CORVALLIS — The first 12 games of the Oregon State men's basketball season have provided the Beavers some highs and lows.

A home loss to Coppin State in the opener got the season off to a sour start.

But there have been peaks, notably a road win at Maryland and home victories versus NCAA tournament hopefuls Towson and Quinnipiac.

The completion of the nonconference part of the schedule leaves Oregon State at 8-4.

"We beat some teams that were top competition and we lost to some teams we probably should have beaten," said senior center Angus Brandt.

"It was up and down. Going forward, I think we just need to be more consistent."

A postseason berth is within reach if the Beavers can navigate what looks to be an above-average year in the Pac-12 Conference. OSU plays its conference opener today at Colorado.

Here's a look at some key factors, what we know and what is yet to play out.

OSU's third scorer

Brandt has established himself as the No. 3 scorer behind Roberto Nelson and Devon Collier.

He's scored in double figures in six games, including four times with 17 points or more.

Last week in Hawaii, Brandt hyperextended the same knee that cost him all but four games last season.

His 21 points (on 8-of-11 shooting) Sunday in the win against Quinnipiac relieved some doubts.

"When we first started going to him he kept delivering. When I saw that first jump hook go in I knew he was back to the old Angus," coach Craig Robinson said.

"Then he bangs one of his old-fashioned 3s that we haven't seen in a while. I think that made everybody feel confident."

Brandt had a career-high 27 points against Towson in the game before his latest injury.

Eric Moreland's impact

The junior forward has been cleared to play after violating team rules. The 14-game suspension was handed down during the offseason.

Moreland is coming off a 2012-13 season in which he averaged 9.4 points and 10.6 rebounds.

The Beavers have two other capable scoring big men in Brandt and Collier, but where Moreland's presence is going to be felt as much as anywhere else will be on defense.

OSU hasn't had anyone average as many as 10.4 rebounds per game in 50 years.

In addition, Moreland has the two best shot-blocking seasons in school history, with 69 in 2011-12 and 73 last year. His 2.1 blocks per game average tops OSU's all-time list.

"Even if he's not blocking a shot, I think teams are very wary of him inside and that changes people's shots," Brandt said.

If Brandt, Collier or Nelson struggle, Moreland could fill a scorer's role.

Who to start at the 3?

OSU has had little offensive production from the small forward spot in the past six games.

Robinson started Langston Morris-Walker for the first time Sunday because he likes the sophomore's energy and hustle.

Junior Victor Robbins started the first 11 games but shot just 5 of 25 the previous five contests.

In a combined 29 minutes Sunday, they had five points on 2-of-5 shooting with one rebound, one assist and no steals.

With the other options on the floor, the Beavers might not need scoring from that spot. But contributions in other areas are necessary for the team to have success.

The Freshman Effect

Freshmen guards Hallice Cooke and Malcolm Duvivier are in the OSU rotation in their first season with the program.

Cooke has played double-digit minutes in all but one game and Duvivier all but two.

"The guys have a lot of trust in me," Cooke said. "I bring energy each and every day. The team goes off of that and sometimes it's somebody bringing energy to me.

"The team support is helping me get through and build on a resume."

Their statistics aren't eye-popping, but they're productive and have limited their turnovers.

Cooke had the first double-digit scoring game between the two Sunday with 12 points, including two 3-pointers.

"They're really understanding a role and they come in, they get the job done and they enable me give our starters a bit of a break more than we could do last year," Robinson said.

By the numbers

Robinson pointed to three positives after Sunday's win:

A season-low eight turnovers; a strong rebounding effort (despite losing that stat 43-36); and shooting 18 of 22 (81.8 percent) from the foul line.

At 13.0, the Beavers are averaging half a turnover less than last season.

OSU is at a minus-0.7 rebounding average through 12 games. Last season the Beavers were a plus-1.6, though a minus-0.2 in Pac-12 games.

Oregon State is at 72.9 percent on free throws compared to 67.0 in 2012-13. The Beavers have improved as the season has gone on, with three of their top four games at the line (by percentage) coming in the past four contests.

"I think what our team is starting to understand is there's a real formula to winning games down the end," Robinson said. "Those three things are really important in closing out games, especially in your conference. You have to be able to get those three things done in order to win."