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Beavers step up in class against Kansas

CORVALLIS — Olaf Schaftenaar remembers the barbecue restaurant he and his Oregon State teammates visited while in Kansas City, Missouri, three years ago.

He also recalls the Beavers’ 84-78 loss to Kansas in that same city, a game in which OSU never led but was within four points of the 10th-ranked team in the country in the closing minute.

Today, the Beavers will return to the same site, Kansas City’s Sprint Center, to play the No. 2 Jayhawks with an opportunity to make waves in college basketball.

“Do all the little things right, be solid in everything we do, take care of the ball, not give them any easy buckets and limit them to one shot, I feel like we should have a shot to win the game,” Schaftenaar said.

It’s a neutral-site game in name only, being played in a 19,000-seat arena about 40 miles northeast of the Kansas campus in Lawrence.

Junior guard Malcolm Duvivier says it’s these types of games – playing one of the top teams in the country – that he works for every day. You take shots in practice, imagining they’re being taken against one of the sport’s blue bloods, he said.

“It just gets you motivated to want to go out there and perform,” he said.

OSU head coach Wayne Tinkle wants to believe his team has an opportunity to win. “Anything can happen this time of year. You see it all the time,” he said earlier this week.

The Beavers are 6-1 after a 66-62 home win against Nevada last Saturday. They’ve outplayed the opponent in the second half to pull away in all six of their victories.

“I don’t know that we’re at the point where we can say ‘we’re going to go beat a team like that,’” Tinkle said. “It’s what we’re going to tell our guys, and we don’t want to just go put up a good showing. But we also have to be realistic with where we’re at right now.”

OSU will still be without senior forward Daniel Gomis, its most physical low-post presence and prominent vocal leader. Gomis is expected to return next week after nearly two months out with a broken hand.

Senior forward Jarmal Reid played for the first time this season against Nevada after sitting out with a stress fracture in his foot and isn’t yet 100 percent.

“If they execute the game plan that we put in play for them, then we feel like we can compete with anybody for sure,” Tinkle said. “We know it’s going to be a heck of a challenge there. They’re a great team and we’re still trying to figure a lot of things out.”

The Beavers are looking to be better in transition defense, rebounding and overall defense.

Schaftenaar says improvement in transition comes down to better communication. OSU has been outrebounded in three of its last four games but is plus-six for the season.

On defense, the Beavers have allowed three of seven opponents to shoot better than 40 percent overall. They’re 2-1 in those games. OSU was 1-12 in games last season in which the opponent shot 40 percent or better.

When asked if his team was in a position to take the next step and pull off an early season upset, Tinkle said:

“I think we’re a long ways away. We’re playing a lot of minutes in these games where we’re not as focused as we need to be defensively. And on offense we say you’ve got to be aggressive and play with poise and purpose, and I don’t know that we’re doing that consistently right now. We have spurts.”

Freshman guard Stephen Thompson Jr. (2) and his Oregon State teammates visit second-ranked Kansas today. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS