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Kerry Eggers on Sports: Second-half gem sets up Oregon State for its next big one, at Washington

CORVALLIS — There have been a few bumps along the road. But Oregon State carries a satchel full of cred — two victories against ranked teams in its last three games — into Thursday's visit to Alaska Airlines Arena to face Washington.

The Beavers (12-4 overall, 2-2 in Pac-12 play) walloped 24th-ranked Arizona (11-4, 1-2) 82-65 Sunday night at Gill Coliseum, a week after knocking off No. 25 Colorado 75-68 at Boulder.

In between was a lackluster performance in an 82-76 home loss to Arizona State, a setback the Beavers say was the result of getting a little too full of themselves after beating the Buffaloes, who had just brought down Oregon.

TRES TINKLE"After we get a good win, we might not take our next opponent seriously enough," said senior forward Tres Tinkle, who compiled 22 points, six rebounds, seven assists and three steals in leading Oregon State to its most complete performance of the season. "We have to live the moment, enjoy it and move on."

Tinkle's father, OSU coach Wayne, drummed that message into his players in no uncertain terms.

"We have to give Arizona State credit," the senior Tinkle said. "(The Sun Devils) shot it well against us. We're not going to disrespect any opponent. It's going to be tough every night.

"We should celebrate wins, but when you have so much youthful enthusiasm, sometimes it gets a little out of hand. We've celebrated our wins, but now we learned our lesson on how we need to keep perspective and move on to the next game. "

There was plenty for the Beavers to celebrate Sunday night after laying a haymaker on Arizona, a program that had won seven straight and 14 of its last 15 meetings with Oregon State. It was OSU's most one-sided win over the Wildcats since 1990, Gary Payton's senior year.

For the first time this season, all five starters scored in double figures.

"That's big for us," said junior guard Ethan Thompson, who had one of his best games of the season with 18 points and eight assists.

Senior center Kylor Kelley rebounded from early foul trouble to collect 13 points, six rebounds and two blocked shots.

Juniors Alfred Hollins (12 points, six boards) and Zach Reichle (11 points) had their moments.

The Beavers shot superbly — .540 from the field, .444 from 3-point range, .909 from the free-throw line — dished out 21 assists in 27 baskets and patiently executed the offensive game plan while committing a manageable 10 turnovers.

Their 1-3-1 zone defense was especially strong in a second half in which they outscored the Wildcats 51-34 and held them to .345 shooting.

"We have a long way to go defensively," Coach Tinkle said. "That was our focus tonight. Our defense has been horrid the last four or five games. Our teams don't play that way. These guys took it personal when we challenged them on it."

The game was tied 31-31 at the half, and the score was still deadlocked at 49-49 with 12 minutes left when the Beavers used a 7-0 surge to take control against a young Wildcat team led by a pair of freshmen, point guard Nico Mannion and 6-11 center Zeke Nnaji.

The difference continued to mount, as did 11th-year Arizona coach Sean Miller's blood pressure, resulting in one second-half technical foul.

Afterward, though, Miller focused on paying homage to the victors.

"I credit Oregon State," said Miller, who has won five Pac-12 titles, had five teams make the Sweet 16 and three advance to the Elite Eight in his decade at Arizona. "(The Beavers) were ready to play the game. They were outstanding in the second half. We couldn't guard them. We just weren't able to match up with the players they have. It was easy for them on offense.

"The last 15-16 minutes of the first half and the first 6-8 of the second half, it was a heck of a game. Eventually, we could not guard Ethan Thompson and Tres Tinkle. We had a hard time on Reichle and Hollins as well. We had no answers for their ability on offense. They kept it really simple. They did an excellent job of taking the matchup and scoring on us. We got outclassed."

Tres Tinkle and Thompson took on most of the ball-handling responsibilities; their distribution and decision-making was on the mark.

"They combined for 15 assists with only (three) turnovers," Coach Tinkle said. "Against a team like (Arizona)? That's impressive. We created some frustration (from the Wildcats) with our execution."

The junior Tinkle and Thompson both hit personal milestones. Tinkle moved ahead of Mel Counts into third place on the OSU career scoring list with 1,979 points. Thompson became the 43rd player in school history to reach the 1,000-point barrier.

But Sunday night was about what the coach called "a great team win, a great bounce-back. I loved how our guys responded to our challenge to button down the ship."

The wins over Arizona and Colorado count big toward Oregon State's NCAA Tournament aspirations. The Wildcats began the day ranked No. 12 in NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET) rankings, which the NCAA adopted last year to replace RPI as its primary evaluation tool. Colorado was 30th. The Beavers were 61st. They'll move up from that.

The task now is to win at Washington, where they have lost 15 straight games dating to 2003. The Huskies are 11-6 overall and 1-3 in Pac-12 action after losing a weekend series at Stanford and California. If Coach Tinkle has any say in it, though, the Beavers won't walk into Alaska Airlines Arena overconfident.

"We still have a ways to go," he said. "We've shown what we're capable of doing, but we need to do it more consistently."

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