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Things to watch for in tonight’s Civil War

Here are five things worth tracking when Oregon State (9-3) opens Pac-12 Conference play against Oregon (10-3) at Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene tonight.

The 343rd men’s basketball Civil War tips off at 5 p.m.

1. Who will control the tempo?

OSU and Oregon have contrasting styles. With little offensive firepower, the Beavers methodically work through their sets in search of open looks. The speedy Ducks, meanwhile, prefer to ratchet up the tempo and feast on transition buckets.

Glance through the conference’s statistical categories, and it’s clear the Ducks and Beavers each pose challenges. Oregon is first in scoring offense, while OSU is last in scoring offense. The Beavers are first in scoring defense; the Ducks are 10th.

Before practice Friday, OSU head coach Wayne Tinkle stressed the importance of his team slowing down the Civil War’s pace. With a limited bench, he explained, the Beavers can’t afford to let Oregon speed down court on makes and misses.

The Beavers want to bleed the clock, outlasting their in-state rival in a low-scoring contest. A race to 80 points, of course, would point toward a Ducks victory.

2. Can the Beavers limit Joseph Young?

Perhaps no Pac-12 team leans on a single player more than Oregon relies upon Joseph Young. The senior is just one of four Division I players averaging at least 19 points, five rebounds and four assists per game.

Tonight, OSU will try to throw Young out of sync by clogging driving lanes. And when in their zone defense, the Beavers must deny the reigning All-Pac-12 selection along the perimeter.

Limiting Young is no easy task, given that he has recorded at least 20 points in more than half of Oregon’s games this season. But frustrating the Houston native would put necessary pressure on complementary pieces like forwards Dillon Brooks and Elgin Cook.

Oregon’s Nov. 25 loss to Virginia Commonwealth provided the ideal case study. Young, frazzled against a wave of pressure, labored through a 2-for-13 shooting night. Though four other Ducks finished in double figures, VCU notched the convincing 77-63 win.

3. Will the Ducks put the game away at the foul line?

In two of their three losses this season, the Beavers stared down a sizable disparity at the charity stripe. Auburn hit 11 more free throws en route to a two-point win over OSU on Nov. 26. In a 60-52 defeat at Quinnipiac on Dec. 21, the Beavers converted just 4-of-7 free throws. The Bobcats were 15-of-19.

Oregon hopes to hand OSU a similar result. The Ducks’ roster is filled with slashers, players capable of knifing into the lane and drawing contact. When they’re fouled, they tend to capitalize. Oregon is second in the Pac-12 with a team free-throw percentage of 73.8. More specifically, Young has missed just four times in 13 games (48-of-52).

4. Who will win the turnover battle?

The Ducks like to turn games into track meets, darting up and down the court for quick buckets. Often times, though, the rapid-fire approach leads to mistakes.

Oregon is second-to-last in the conference in turnover margin. That could spell a big outing for OSU, which leads the Pac-12 with a plus-3.3 turnover margin. The Beavers are adept at switching between defenses and sneaking into passing lanes. They’re also No. 1 in the conference with 8.8 steals per game.

5. Will OSU prove it can beat a quality team on the road?

The Beavers are 8-0 at Gill Coliseum, their best home start since the 1998-99 team opened 10-0. Away from Corvallis’ friendly confines, though, they’re just 1-3.

In Eugene, OSU hopes to show it can beat a worthwhile opponent in a hostile environment. It’s a daunting task for a young Beavers team.

At this point, OSU is a feel-good surprise. But was its fast start largely the product of a lean nonconference schedule? The Beavers, who own the conference’s second-worst RPI, have faced just four opponents who are currently above .500.

Tonight’s matchup should give outsiders a better understanding of where OSU falls on the Pac-12 hierarchy. The Ducks, who were picked eighth in the Pac-12’s preseason media poll, are 9-1 at home this season.