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Fresh start

• With a new upbeat attack, OSU is ready to turn Pac-10 heads Things may only get better for a team with no seniors on the roster Things may only get better for a team with no seniors on the roster

CORVALLIS ÑÊNo crowds over 4,000. An average attendance of 3,266. One Oregon State official said Gill Coliseum had become 'a morgue.'

Back in the good years, OSU students lined up outside 24 to 48 hours in advance to get tickets to a men's basketball game. It was an event. These days, the Beavers might have trouble giving tickets away free with subs at Togo's. A hungry student might take free potato chips instead.

Maybe Saturday's game will change things. A crowd of 10,036 Ñ the best in years ÑÊhelped the Beavers beat Oregon 90-81. It also was OSU's best win in years, despite one of the best individual games ever by an Oregon Duck.

No, public address announcer Mike Stone did not have to ask second-level spectators to move down to fill seats at court level in order to make the scene look better on television, as Stone had been told to do in previous games.

No, for one night, the place did not have the atmosphere of an OSU women's game.

No, the Beaver gymnastics team could not brag any longer about drawing bigger crowds.

Beaver fans have hope now. They see energetic and athletic players running a fast and fun offense and playing prickly defense. The Beavers hustle, create turnovers and limit their own mistakes. And, it appears, they have the kind of coach in Jay John Ñ a good tactician and good recruiter under Arizona's Lute Olson Ñ who can take them to the next level.

Even UO star Luke Jackson intimated that John and his coaching staff made their mark in Saturday's Civil War game. 'Good game plan,' Jackson said. 'I think Jay John is on his way to making this a respected team in the Northwest.'

The Beavers (7-6) might still struggle to get close to the coveted .500 mark, which the program hasn't topped in 13 seasons. As one of six teams in the country with no seniors, the Beavers' best days still lie ahead.

Let them play

Coach Ernie Kent instituted a breakneck pace at Oregon Ñ the more fast breaks and 3-pointers the better, he says. Like Kent, John is 'just letting them play,' Jackson says. Gone are the days of Ritchie McKay's plodding style and last year's slowdown tactics with big men Philip Ricci and Brian Jackson.

'Before, they would slow it down and really didn't have a chance to win because they couldn't score,' the Duck's Jackson says. 'This way, they're quicker and, even if they make some mistakes, they can still score.'

Exactly the plan, John says, except that the Beavers have not been making mistakes. They just don't shoot well.

So, John emphasizes minimizing turnovers and grabbing offensive rebounds. Going into the Civil War, the Beavers were averaging 14 turnovers and 14 offensive rebounds per game Ñ great numbers. Against the Ducks, they had nine turnovers and 13 offensive rebounds.

'We need the extra opportunities; the more swings at the plate, if you will,' John says.

Point guard Lamar Hurd didn't have a turnover against Oregon, and he had 13 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds. J.S. Nash had seven of the Beavers' nine turnovers, but he also had 17 points and six rebounds, and he brings terrific energy to the game.

John asks Hurd, Nash and Chris Stephens all to serve as a point guard, to create mismatches, attack from different angles and confuse the opponent. Jackson acknowledged that the Ducks had trouble adjusting to the strategy.

Give John some credit. He adjusts to his personnel, rather than blanketing the program with his own coaching philosophy. He hasn't just taken what he and Olson used at Arizona and transferred everything to Corvallis.

'I'm probably still a bit of a mutt,' he says. 'It's not like what we did there, because we had five scorers there. It was more isolation and more 'You take away this person, and we'll go there.' I don't have that luxury.

'That's why a lot of times I don't know what's going on offensively. If they take away David (Lucas) and Chris, what are we going to do? We try to push it, because that's some of our best opportunities.'

Pushing it

Hurd, John and the assistant coaches met for 30 minutes last week, and they set the record straight. Yes, John wants Hurd to be aggressive offensively and look to score. And, yes, Hurd wants to do it.

'There were a lot of misunderstandings,' says Hurd, the sinewy and quick 6-4 sophomore from Houston who entered Saturday's game averaging 5.8 points on only 5.8 shots per game. 'This year has been frustrating for me, and people can see it out on the court.

'It's not necessarily me wanting to score more, but it's what's necessary for the team. Whatever level I play at, these guys play at. So, fans can expect to see (shots) more often.' Hurd had 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting.

John says defenses have to respect Hurd's ability to score. 'We've wanted him to do that, but he's been a pass-first point guard his whole life,' the coach says. 'Even times (Saturday) I had to tell him, 'You're taking yourself out of the game. Be aggressive.' He's in the midst of developing his game; (Saturday) was a good step for him.'

The UO zone

With Hurd and Nash offensive factors, the Beavers shredded the Ducks' defense. Stephens hit four of his first five shots before missing 10 in a row when he and Angelo Tsagarakis went cold. Stephens had two big baskets late, however, and finished with 17 points, his 10th consecutive game with 15 or more.

In the second half, the Beavers shot 56.3 percent by working the ball effectively and finding Lucas cutting for layups against UO's matchup zone. Sure, the Beavers were good, but the Ducks' frontcourt players looked like they had cement in their shoes.

'We played poor defense,' Jackson says, explaining all the OSU layups. 'It was a high-energy game, and our (defensive) rotations weren't as crisp as they should have been. Got to give them credit for being patient, working the ball around and not taking quick shots Ñ being pretty conservative on the offensive end in the second half.'

It was classic inside-outside basketball, says Lucas, who scored 22 of his 24 points in the second half.

'If I get open, the guards fake the shot and give it to me down low,' Lucas says. 'I did my best to seal the defense high and then pump-faked with my shot.'

The Ducks, of course, have anything but a fearsome interior defense, as evidenced by their one block against OSU and 21 blocks in nine games.

The Jackson question

Just one question to consider about Jackson's night: No, it isn't 'Did Jackson cost UO the game by hogging the ball and taking all the key shots?' That's hogwash. His teammates didn't step up.

No, the question is, what did Jackson's 36 points, 16 rebounds, five assists and four steals earn him? a) Pac-10 player of the year, b) All-America honors, c) First-round NBA pick, or d) All of the above?

This week

Thursday: Washington State at Oregon State, 8:05 p.m.; Washington at Oregon, 6 p.m.

Saturday: Washington at Oregon State, 1:05 p.m.; Washington State at Oregon, 5:15 p.m.