Oregon State has many positives going for it É but one big negative.- The shooting percentage simply must go up. The Beavers (3-2) have shot less than .379 from the floor in their last five halves of basketball, and they're shooting .395 for the season. Oregon State is .283 (26 of 92) from 3-point range.

'But I believe we're better shooters,' coach Jay John says. 'We're playing faster than last year, because we're capable of it. I'm hoping the next step for us is confidence in shooting.

'If we can get the percentage up, I'd be curious to see what the (opposing) defense does. Would they still say, 'Prove it and make jumpers?''

The Beavers have played well in all five games, but they dropped a three-overtime game to Portland and let a second-half lead slip away at Colorado. They are running and defending Ñ forcing 22.6 turnovers per game, while committing only 14 themselves Ñ and playing an exciting brand of hoops.

Oregon State handed Kansas State its first loss last week, 87-82 in two overtimes. Guards Chris Stephens and J.S. Nash combined for 44 points, on 14-for-34 shooting.

Nash made two 3-pointers on six attempts, which John hailed as a step forward: 'Maybe now the basket gets bigger for him.'

The 6-2 shooting guard spent all summer with 'Shootaway' Ñ no, not a buddy, but a mechanical ball retriever for shooting drills. 'Put up as many jumpers as I could, 500 to 600 a day' says Nash, who shot .329 last year but has improved to .431 this season.

Forward David Lucas leads the team in field goal percentage at .466.

The Beavers play Willamette and Hawaii in their next two games, and John hopes to continue the momentum. He realizes the youthful exuberance, hustle and potential with young players such as Kyle Jeffers in the lineup and sees brighter things on the horizon.

Some would say OSU, one of six schools in the country without seniors, has the talent to win fewer than 10 games this season.

'I have no idea what can happen,' John says. 'We play and practice for the next day Ñ that's all I'm looking for, the next day.'

Notable newcomers

The Beavers have high hopes for two newcomers: Jeffers, a 6-9 forward from Santa Rosa, Calif., and Liam Hughes, a 7-2 center from England via Modesto, Calif.

Jeffers, who has put on 30 pounds since his prep days and weighs 245, has started all five games. He's averaging 5.2 rebounds but has hit only 7 of 23 shots. John likes his competitiveness.

'People are going to look at him as a steal for Oregon State before he's through,' assistant coach Jeff Reinert says.

Hughes, a redshirt this year, would be considered a project Ñ a big project, at 300 pounds and -'7-2 1/2 barefoot,' Reinert says. John says Hughes knows how to handle his body and can overcome his lack of quickness.

'Liam has a huge desire to reach his potential,' Reinert adds. 'He has dropped body fat and worked really hard. He is two years away, because he needs to run better and get a better core strength in his body. But he will be a factor. Two or three years from now, people will be talking about Liam.'

Michael Johnson, son of former Beaver great Steve Johnson, has played in two games. He prepped at City Christian in Northeast Portland.

Oh, what a night

Lewis & Clark exploded for a school-record 22 3-pointers Tuesday in its home win against Cascade. The Pioneers also tied a school record for 3-point attempts (45).

Guard Danny Winchester hit 7 of 12 3-pointers to lead the barrage, which saw seven players hit three or more.

'And we cleared the bench with 10 minutes to go,' coach Bob Gaillard says. 'Cascade was trying to defend (the 3-pointer), but if you have two or three guys moving without the ball, there is some fear of dribble penetration.'

But 45 3-pointers? 'Redlands just took 81 3's in a game,' Gaillard says of an NCAA Division III school in California where one of his cronies coaches. 'Took 107 shots, and 81 were 3's.'

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