On College Hoops
by: ©2008 TROY WAYRYNEN, Viking star Kelsey Kahle has helped Portland State to a 14-3 record. At 4-0 in the Big Sky, it looks like the Vikings will face Montana for the conference title.

It's pretty unfathomable how poorly Oregon State shoots the ball. Whether the Beavers under coach Jay John are not running the proper offense to shoot better or simply lack good enough players to put the ball in the basket, it is really pathetic.

Take the 69-59 loss at Cal, for example. Oregon State scored 59 points, shot 25 of 76 from the floor, 4 of 22 on 3-pointers and 5 of 10 on free throws and recorded only six assists on 25 baskets - all below its already cellar-dwelling averages. The Beavs had seven steals, 20 offensive rebounds and 16 forced turnovers, all above average, and still had trouble scoring.

'We need to get easy points,' Seth Tarver says. 'When we get easy shots, we need to make them. When you hit the easy shots, you feel more comfortable when you shoot the ball in other situations.'

The thing is, the Beavers rank second in the Pac-10 in offensive rebounds (14.8 per game) and force 14 turnovers, about middle of the pack in the league. Those should translate into more points.

But the other stats are very telling: OSU ranks last in scoring (61.6), field goal shooting (.386), 3-point shooting (.283) and assists (11.9); ninth in free-throw shooting (.634); and eighth in steals (5.4).

Something ain't happening in Corvallis. It's hard to believe it's the players. It's got to be the coaching, because it's been the problem in other seasons, too.

• Oregon's sweep of Cal and Stanford tells you that the Ducks continue to get outstanding play from seniors Malik Hairston, Bryce Taylor and Maarty Leunen, and that UO has weathered the slump of Tajuan Porter and Joevan Catron's foot injury. We'll see what the Ducks (12-4, 3-1 Pac-10) do on the road at Washington State and Washington this week, but they are not going away in the quest for the Pac-10 title.

Some other UO tidbits:

It's only one game, but Porter looked like his old self Sunday, scoring 15 points in the win over Stanford. Coach Ernie Kent says Porter's situation is not analogous to Chamberlain Oguchi's last season - a hot shooter who tries to hit his stride again. 'TP's special,' Kent says. 'A special kid, a special and gifted player. We have to get him back going in terms of energy.' Kent adds that Porter still is adjusting to life without Aaron Brooks.

Rookie Drew Viney, who has played in only one game because of a foot stress fracture, will return to practice this week. He cannot get a medical redshirt, since his injury has not been deemed season-ending.

For every three great plays, point guard Kamyron Brown makes one bonehead play and brings out 'one more gray hair,' Kent jokes. 'He's a freshman, and he's already playing beyond his year.'

Yes, Taylor is leaner than last year. But Kent doesn't worry about his strength. 'It's all by design, it has made him faster and quicker,' he says, adding that Taylor has enough strength to play in the NBA.

A decent role player, guard Churchill Odia has made only two turnovers in 134 minutes played this season. He had only six turnovers in 156 minutes last season.

• Maybe the best emerging story continues to be at Portland State, where the women moved to 14-3 (4-0 Big Sky) with an absolute throttling of Idaho State last weekend 97-57. The Bengals had beaten UCLA and Oregon State.

Portland State has star players in Claire Faucher and Kelsey Kahle, good role players, and four of the five true freshmen play important minutes. First-year coach Sherri Murrell took over the players and true freshmen all recruited by former coach Charity Elliott. Something clicked with Murrell at the helm.

'It's a great fit with everybody,' Kahle says. 'She brings energy every day. I love playing for her - players are willing to run through a wall for her.'

It appears PSU will battle Montana for the Big Sky title. Murrell wants the players to be the hunter, not the hunted, although Kahle says: 'I love being the underdog. It's a mentality thing.'

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