Beavers, Vikings build for league play
CORVALLIS — The better team won, but not by much. Truth be told, the losers had more to be happy about than the winners.
Oregon State beat Portland State 81-76 Sunday at Gill Coliseum, the Beavers bettering their record to 7-1 this season and to 14-0 against the Vikings all-time. But this was not a victory for the ages.
"They were much hungrier than we were, the more aggressive team from start to finish," sixth-year OSU coach Wayne Tinkle said.
The Beavers led 59-40 five minutes into the second half and then withstood a Portland State surge that cut the difference to four points in the closing seconds. The Vikings (3-5) went without injured center Sal Nuhu, and power forward Alonzo Walker was limited to 12 minutes due to a foot injury.
"That's our starting 4 and 5," PSU coach Barret Peery said. "But give our guys a lot of credit. They fought and scratched and clawed to the very end.
"Oregon State smacked us at the start of the second half, but we battled back and had an opportunity to be right there. Our guys had a lot of poise. They handled a tough situation really well."
Portland State pressures 94 feet defensively and crashes the offensive boards. Last year, the Vikings forced 14 turnovers a game and led the nation with 15.6 offensive rebounds per game. Going into Sunday's game, PSU was forcing 17.4 turnovers and averaging 15.8 offensive boards per contest.
The Beavers negotiated the full-court defense fine, making only 10 turnovers. But the Vikings — minus Nuhu and with Walker playing sparingly — had 17 offensive boards, including 11 in the second half, and outrebounded Oregon State 39-32.
"I wasn't happy at all about that," Tinkle said. "We told our guys that they're a really good offensive rebounding team, even without their center. They spread you out and crash the glass. I'm disappointed our bigs didn't do a better job. Rebounding is an affair of the heart. Our guys are going to have to work on it."
The Beavers also had trouble defending Portland State point guard Holland "Boo Boo" Woods. The 6-1 junior sat out the final six minutes of the first half after drawing his third foul, but scored 18 of his 23 points in the final 20 minutes.
The OSU coach's son, Tres Tinkle, had his usual sensational game with 26 points on 8-for-15 shooting, including 5 for 7 from 3-point range. The 6-7 senior also was 5 for 5 from the foul line and collected nine rebounds, seven assists and two blocked shots. Junior guard Ethan Thompson came on for 13 of his 18 points in the second half. And junior guard Zach Reichle hit 6 of 8 shots from the field and scored a career-high 16 points.
But Beavers junior forward Alfred Hollins missed both of his shots and finished with two points and four rebounds in 21 minutes. Senior center Kylor Kelley — who entered the game ranked third nationally with 4.59 blocked shots per game — had six blocks but managed two points on 1-for-4 shooting and had three rebounds in 34 minutes.
"We had a chance to knock (the Vikings) out in the first half and we didn't," Coach Tinkle said. "We missed a bunch of shots at the rim (eight in the first half). It was a physical game, and we shied away because of that. They spread it out, they got by us whenever they wanted, they pulled our shot-blocker away from the rim and they kicked our butts on the glass.
"Give them a ton of credit. They played their tails off. Shame on us for not being tougher mentally and physically. It's a wakeup call for us. I'm glad it didn't cost us an 'L.'"
Tinkle is trying to incorporate seven recruits into his system, including forward Payton Dastrup, who was on campus but did not play a year ago. The 6-10 Dastrup and 7-1 Roman Silva did not play against Portland State, the coach opting to go with shorter, quicker options against the Vikings' small lineup.
The three newcomers seeing the most duty thus far have been guards Gianni Hunt, Jarod Lucas and Sean Miller-Moore. Hunt, a 6-3 freshman point guard out of Lakewood, California, was the one Beaver who got the ball upcourt quickly to beat the PSU press. The southpaw is the fastest player on the team, and once he finds his shooting range will be a threat to make the starting lineup.
"Gianni can become a one-man press-breaker," Coach Tinkle said. "He does a good job of attacking and seeing where the advantages are. He's an Energizer Bunny for us."
Lucas, a 6-3 freshman shooting guard from Hacienda Heights, Calif., is slow by Pac-12 standards and is not yet a good defender. But he can shoot — .476 from the field, .500 from 3-point range this season — and has a savvy beyond his years.
"He's such a threat offensively and has a high level of (basketball) IQ," Coach Tinkle said. "He's an all-in guy. He busts his butt every day. He's going to be a lot like Zach Reichle, with the process of getting him to where he needs to be."
Miller-Moore, a 6-5 junior transfer from Moberly (Missouri) JC, is not a good perimeter shooter but can slash to the basket with his athleticism. He scored seven points on 3-for-3 shooting in nine minutes against PSU.
"Sean has to pick up our defensive concepts," Coach Tinkle said. "He's capable of pressing and causing havoc on defense, of rebounding and flashing and crashing on offense. We want him to play with unbridled fury, and he's not there yet."
If things jell, this could be the best of Coach Tinkle's six Oregon State teams, even better than the 2015-16 team that finished 19-13 and reached the NCAA Tournament. Tres Tinkle is a two-time all-Pac-12 first-team selection and a candidate for the league's Player of the Year award this season. The 6-5 Thompson, though playing out of position at point guard, has the capabilities of being one of the premier backcourt players in the conference. The 7-foot Kelley, who leads the nation with 4.7 blocks a game, averages only 4.3 rebounds and 10.4 points. He needs to be more of a factor on the boards and within the OSU offense.
"Kylor is focused on blocking and changing shots, but he can be a Dennis Rodman type of player for us," Coach Tinkle said. "He should be a guy who gets us eight to 10 rebounds a night."
The Beavers have a near-two-week hiatus before resuming to action at home Dec. 14 against Arkansas-Pine Bluff. The university won't allow the scheduling of games during dead week or finals week.
"We could have played a game on the Saturday in between, but we couldn't find anything that worked," Coach Tinkle said.
It means Oregon State will play only 12 nonconference games in addition to the 18 Pac-12 contests, which begin Jan. 2 at Utah. NCAA rules allow for 31 total games. The missed game could have ramifications with the Beavers' bid for postseason play. Selection committees tend to look more at a team's total number of victories than the overall winning percentage.
"It's not ideal, but we'll deal with it," Coach Tinkle said. "We'll find a way to make the (13-day) break positive, for sure."
Oregon State began the season 4-1, with wins over Cal State Northridge, Iowa State, Wyoming and Cal Santa Barbara and a 77-69 loss to Oklahoma at Moda Center.
"We felt that was as tough a schedule for the first two weeks as we've had since I've been at OSU," Coach Tinkle said. "It hasn't all been pretty, but we've played pretty well and made progress."
The Beavers haven't started better than 7-1 since 1980-81, when the Steve Johnson-led "Orange Express" started 26-0 and was ranked No. 1 in the nation for 11 weeks.
OSU's remaining nonconference slate includes home games against Arkansas-Pine Bluff (1-5) and North Dakota (4-5) and matchups with Texas-San Antonio (1-6) and Texas A&M (3-4) in the Battleground 2K19 event at Houston. The Beavers could be 11-1 when they open Pac-12 action in Salt Lake City.
"I think we can be one of the top teams in the Pac-12," Coach Tinkle said. "We can score more than we have in the past. We've shown we can defend at times. We have to be able to rebound, and we have to keep guys out of the paint when we're playing against athletic teams.
"We have a lot of potential. It's a great group to work with. We just have to keep getting better."
That's the way Peery feels in his third season at the Portland State helm. The Vikings return only three players from a year ago — Woods, Nuhu and forward Rashaad Gooslby. Peery has 10 new players, including seven transfers.
The Vikings haven't shot well — .403 from the field, .301 from 3-point range — but Peery said that is coming. PSU has four more nonconference games before it opens Big Sky play at home Dec. 28 against Northern Colorado.
"I believe in our guys as far as shooting the ball," he said. "We have the right guys shooting it. We have to get minutes under our belt together. That's what it's all about right now.
"But I like our group a lot. They play hard. They play the way we want them to play. When we're at full speed with everybody healthy, it fits what we want to do."
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