With the conclusion of USA Basketball’s four-game fall exhibition tour, let’s empty the notebook on their 81-58 win over Oregon State.
The Beavers hung tough with Team USA, only trailing by five at the break. The three-headed guard attack of Mikayla Pivec, Aleah Goodman and Destiny Slocum combined for 39 of Oregon State’s 58 points. Turnovers and runouts allowed Team USA to separate late in the third quarter and into the fourth.
Two key players didn’t suit up for OSU. Sharp-shooting wing Kat Tudor, who has since successfully returned to action after last season’s ACL tear, will help take their offense to another level. This group will get even tougher to stop when they put all four guards/wings on the floor together.
Starting forward Taya Corosdale (hamstring) also did not play. Scott Rueck announced earlier this month that she’s expected to miss the remainder of the season. She returned in time for the preseason WNIT but went down after appearing to tweak the same hamstring that had previously sidelined her.
Corosdale is such a critical piece giving them some shooting from one of the forward spots without having to downsize too aggressively. Enter freshman Kennedy Brown, who will now be leaned on far more on a night to night basis. OSU’s Final Four hopes can’t be written off quite yet with the Corosdale news if Brown can cash in enough of these open looks.
While Brown has some stretch to her game, fellow freshman Taylor Jones is more of a hammer inside. She finished with six points and nine rebounds in 23 minutes and had some nice moments inside holding her own blocking out and putting a body on Team USA’s bigs.
Pivec found Jones for a layup out of a nice set piece in the second. Brown screened Pivec out to the left wing as Slocum snuck behind A’ja Wilson to set the big screen that set it all up.
Slocum is one of the first names to throw out if you’re in search of a player that could make a leap this college season. This will be her second season playing in real games for the Beavers; the redshirt junior sat out for one season after transferring from Maryland. Could said leap, perhaps in the form of more trips to the foul line, account some for the loss of Corosdale?
Mastery of the relocation 3-pointer could be seen as low-hanging fruit for Slocum, too. A bunch of her drives tended to end prematurely as she picked up her dribble in or near the lane.
Firing the ball out to a release valve and sprinting back out to the perimeter can leave a defense in the dust.
Are they switching?
Did they already execute a late switch by default?
Did Jones already toss in an easy layup posting up a smaller player?
Does that big want to risk creeping up too far?
Slocum forcing any player, guard or big, to chase her back out beyond the arc could even immediately open up an even juicer driving opportunity. Teams respect her 3-point stroke. Reacting in time to be sure she doesn’t get a head start will be tricky.
Slocum’s running mate in the backcourt creates just as many headaches with her 3-point shooting. Goodman is one of the best pure shooters in college basketball.
(Slocum and Tudor could give her a run for her money. When do we get to see those three in a 3-point contest?)
You won’t see this kind of sequence from many backcourts at any level.
Slocum has the wheels to beat potential traps down the sideline. And though this is Goodman’s first season as a (projected) full-time starter, the OSU faithful are already accustomed to seeing her knock down deep 3-pointers off the bounce or on the move.
Pivec (4-11 FG, 0-3 3PT, five assists, six turnovers) didn’t pop in this matchup. Even against a Team USA group both missing some of its premier frontcourt talent and elite perimeter defenders, a big question for Pivec at the next level comes down to her ability to make plays on straight-line drives against bigger, faster, stronger competition.
As is, she relies on out-muscling opposing perimeter players once she works to a spot in the lane and relies on more of a meandering, deliberate attacking style.
Already seen as one of the best college teams entering the season, Oregon State makes for a fun watch from start to finish. Those four veteran guards alone would be able to lead any team to 20-plus wins. The growth of those freshmen bigs will likely determine their ceiling.
A stray thought on Team USA: Skylar Diggins-Smith’s 3-point stroke looked great throughout the four-game fall tour. She shot 9-of-16 from deep to go with 13 assists in 78 minutes.
The All-Star guard upped the volume in the 2017 (35 percent on 140 attempts) and 2018 (29.7 percent on 172 attempts) WNBA seasons and noted on Instagram earlier this offseason that she spent a week working with NBA shooting coach Lethal Shooter.
To be clear, it’s not as if her jumper was broken. But any improvement would be of use both to Team USA, sure to be stocked with frontcourt creators and post-up hubs in Tokyo, and the Wings, should the projected unrestricted free agent re-up in Dallas.
Diggins-Smith and Arike Ogunbowale would give them two dynamic guards that can create off the bounce. Making opponents pay from distance would allow one to make life easier for the other as the Wings aim to put together a group that can get them back to the playoffs.
Coming later this month: A breakdown of the U.S. national team’s exhibitions against Stanford.
In case you missed it: Thoughts on Oregon’s win over the U.S. National Team
Graphic by Akshay Ram