Lester Conner, Oregon State's all-America guard, said today neither he nor his teammates plan to alter their style of play when they face Georgetown Saturday in the NCAA West Regional final (WDVM-TV-9 at 2:45 p.m. EST).
Conner admitted, however, that he is concerned about facing the Hoyas' 7-foot freshman center, Patrick Ewing.
"He's the tallest guy we've seen this year, and he has those long arms that reach across the key," said Conner, who is 6-4 and leads the Beavers (25-4) in scoring, rebounding, assists, steals and one-liners. "I ask myself what do I do if I beat my man and get in the lane? Do I take it to Ewing? Smart people take 10-foot jump shots. I'm smart."
"I usually don't see many centers his size," said Charlie Sitton, a 6-foot-8 sophomore center. "I'll have to rely on a lot of help. We have to keep pressure on the ball out front and stop him from getting good position. He moves so well inside and is so agile. I don't think we'll get too many layups. We'll have to rely on short jump shots and some fast-break baskets."
The Beavers are an intelligent team, well-schooled in protecting the basketball, exploiting opponents' weaknesses and winning.
The three-time Pacific-10 champions ran by Pepperdine, 70-51, and Idaho, 60-42, in earlier tournament games. The Beavers are 77-10 the last three years. They are patient offensively and have held opponents to an average 54.5 points, forcing an average of 20 turnovers per game.
Many observers are surprised the Beavers are here. They lost three players to the National Basketball Association after last season--Steve Johnson (Kansas City), Ray Blume (Chicago) and Mark Radford (Seattle). But Conner and Sitton took over early.
"The team was built around the big three last year," Conner said. "When they didn't do it, Charlie and I didn't know whether to take over or what. This year, we're the hub, but we don't have any big stars. No one can concentrate on any one player."
Georgetown and Oregon State are similiar teams. Both have good pressing defenses, patient offenses and rely on transition baskets.
"We're alike in some ways," said OSU Coach Ralph Miller, in his 12th season. "The big difference is that they have the big man in the middle. And their bench may be a bit deeper than ours. We're basically a six-man team but they've played a lot, and fatigue shouldn't be a factor. It'd be nice to get a lead and make them come after us."
Georgetown used fine outside shooting--a regional record 64 percent--and the inside play of Ewing to get past defense-oriented Fresno State, 58-40, Thursday night. Ewing scored 12 of his team's first 17 points of the second half as the Hoyas went from a one-point lead to an eight-point advantage with seven minutes left in the game. He finished with 15 points, six rebounds and two blocks. Eric Floyd scored 16 points and Eric Smith 10.
Georgetown, which has held each of its last eight opponents to 54 points or fewer, then went to its delay game and ended Fresno State's hopes by making 12 of 12 free throws in the final 2:19.
Conner and Sitton combined for 15 of their team's initial 19 points in the second half to help OSU break open a close game. Once the lead increased to a comfortable 10 points late in the second half, OSU also went to a delay game and, like Georgetown, used good free-throw shooting to put Idaho away. Conner finished with 24 points and 10 rebounds, and Sitton had 16 and seven.
The previous two seasons, OSU, seeded first in the West, was eliminated in their first tournament game.
"They're a flexible team, like we are," said Georgetown Coach John Thompson. "They run well, have good shot selection and are able to control the tempo. They're obviously the best team we'll face, because a lot of folks have gone home and Oregon State is still here."
Except for the obvious mismatch between Ewing (12.0, 7.0) and Sitton (13.0, 5.0), the teams appear about even. The Beaver back court of Conner (15.0) and 6-1 William Brew (10.0) are as quick or quicker than the 6-3 Floyd (16.0) and 6-5 Freddie Brown (5.0). OSU's forwards, 6-7 A.C. Green (9.0, 5.0) and 6-5 1/2 Danny Evans (11.4), are quick and good shooters, as are the Hoyas' 6-8 Mike Hancock (7.2) and 6-5 Eric Smith (10.0)
Rob Holbrook, a 6-8 senior, is the key reserve for OSU; the Hoyas use as many as four or five subs.
Sitton and Conner said the only team they played this year whose talent and versatility were similar to the Hoyas' was Louisville, which plays University of Alabama at Birmingham for the Mideast Regional crown Saturday.