Beavers get back on right track
CORVALLIS — Oregon, with a full squad, may still be the better team.
But Oregon State gave the 14th-ranked Ducks something more to think about in a 63-53 Civil War victory Saturday night before a sellout Gill Coliseum crowd of 9,301.
It was the Beavers' third straight win and fourth in five games in the series, perhaps lending credence to the line former OSU football coach Dee Andros used to roll out ever year: "You can throw out the records in the Civil War."
Oregon (18-6 overall, 7-4 in Pac-12 play) came in leading the conference while Oregon State (14-9, 4-7) was in 11th place. The Beavers snatched Saturday's game along with bragging rights by finding their shooting touch in the second half and using a serious defensive approach for 40 minutes.
"Super proud of the guys," OSU coach Wayne Tinkle said after his team rallied from a 10-point second-half deficit to win, outscoring Oregon 33-13 over the final 17 minutes. "It wasn't a work of art, but I was really impressed with our toughness defensively and on the glass, especially the last 10 minutes. Our guys showed great character."
The Beavers employed man-to-man defense the entire way, 6-5 junior Ethan Thompson taking on the challenge of guarding Oregon point guard Payton Pritchard. The Pac-12 Player of the Year candidate totaled 16 points and nine assists but was 7 for 21 from the field and only 1 for 8 from 3-point range, knocking down his final attempt with 15 seconds remaining.
"The way Ethan guarded tonight was unbelievable," Tinkle said. "(Even with) all of the screens they set for Payton, (Thompson) just made up his mind he wasn't going to give him anything easy. And Kylor (Kelley) did a nice job of protecting the rim. Really proud of what Ethan did defensively. He was a warrior."
Thompson, who played the entire second half, finished with 15 points, four rebounds and four assists. The 7-foot Kelley collected 14 points on 7-for-9 shooting to go with six boards and two blocks.
Senior Tres Tinkle — who finished his career 4-0 against the Ducks at Gill — struggled with his shot but contributed 13 points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals. The coach's son was 4 for 13 from the field and 0 for 4 from the 3-point line. He is 12 for 54 (.222) from beyond the arc in Pac-12 play.
Collectively, the Beavers — who entered the game ninth in the league in 3-point shooting at .322 — were 5 for 18. Take away Zach Reichle, who was 3 for 5, and OSU was 2 for 13.
"I can't put my finger on it," Coach Tinkle said. "We're not shooting the ball anywhere near the way we can."
But the Ducks — who came in leading the Pac-12 and 13th nationally at .387 — weren't much better, hitting only 7 of 23 attempts.
Playing without centers Francis Okoro (attending family funeral) and N'Faly Dante (knee injury), Oregon led 32-28 at the half and 40-30 three minutes into the third quarter. After Reichle hit a 3 to cut the difference to seven, OSU called for a timeout.
"We told the guys, 'We're going to put our foot down, draw a line in the sand and get back in it,'" Coach Tinkle said. "And we did. Credit to the guys."
Oregon went more than 11 minutes with only one basket, until Pritchard converted a layup to tie the score at 44-44 with 6:06 left.
OSU's lead was only 52-50 when Pritchard scored on another layup with 2:06 on the clock. But Reichle hit a big 3 to make it 55-50, and the Beavers followed with six straight free throws to put the game away.
After the final horn, hundreds of the OSU students rushed the floor to celebrate with the Beaver players.
"That was fun," said Tres Tinkle, who scored in double figures in his 88th straight game, one shy of Mel Counts' school record. "We had to get back to protecting Gill. A game like this gets us back on the right track."
Oregon State shot .545 from the field in the second half after shooting only .379 in the first half. Oregon shot .310 in the second half after firing at a .500 clip in the first half.
It was the Ducks' second straight loss after a 70-60 setback at Stanford last Sunday, a game in which they also faltered down the stretch.
"We had a bad stretch where (OSU) had seven goals right at the bucket and our reaction was really bad," Oregon coach Dana Altman said about Saturday's performance. "We're just not getting any flow that second half. Not getting very good shots. Not executing anything out of timeouts. Our transition, we just ran out of gas.
"That's kind of been our M.O on the road — not getting quality shots, not executing, a lot of dribbling, not much ball movement. We have to get back to work, try to figure it out."
Oregon State is the team that is hard to figure out. The Beavers' Pac-12 wins have come over the conference's top four teams in the NCAA's NET ratings — Arizona (No. 8), Colorado (18), Oregon (19) and Stanford (27). Their losses have come against league foes ranked lower than 48. The Beavers were 82nd heading into Saturday.
"Why do you think my hair's gray?" Coach Tinkle asked. "It's caused us some sleepless nights. But we said going into today, we can't do anything about what's behind us. We're starting fresh, and we came out and took care of it. The challenge now is, let's keep moving forward and building."
It seems clear that Oregon State isn't going to be a strong 3-point shooting club. Tres Tinkle is a much better shooter than he's showing, but this team isn't going to win games from the 3-point line.
"We have to hang our hats on our 'D,'" the OSU coach said.
And their competitiveness.
"We just had to grind it out tonight," Tinkle said. "We weren't the most disciplined at both ends, but we fought hard. When it came to crunch time, we crunched. And defensively, we did a really good job of not letting any of their big guys go off."
The Beavers did two other things well.
They handled Oregon's full-court pressure superbly. The Ducks scored only seven fast-break points, none off turnovers in the backcourt.
Oregon State committed only seven fouls to Oregon's 17. The Ducks managed only four free-throw attempts, making two.
"Defending without fouling has been a problem for us," Tinkle said. "Tonight, we did that well."
Oregon has five of its last seven Pac-12 games at home, including a return date with Oregon State on Feb. 27. The Ducks expect to be at full strength soon.
Said Altman: "We hopefully get Francis back from Nigeria and get Dante healthy one of these days, and start executing some stuff and get some post presence. Guys are having (career games) against us inside. We've got to do a better job."
A year ago, Oregon was 15-12 overall and 6-8 in Pac-12 play before running off 10 straight wins, which took them to the Pac-12 postseason tournament title and the Sweet 16.
"We've been here before," Pritchard said. "Last year, we were way worse. We're going to regroup, come back and try to go on a run."
Oregon State — still 11th in the Pac-12 but two games out of fifth — is too far back to think about the NCAA Tournament. It's simply about putting a win streak together, which will require Tres Tinkle to regain his shooting stroke and his teammates to follow suit.
"We have to start shooting better," his father said. "We all know that. We can't freak out about it. You got an open shot, knock it down. We'll get out of it.
"What I loved about tonight was to the last horn, we had guys diving on the floor after balls. That's Beaver basketball. If we continue to defend and scrap like that, I know the lid's going to come off that hoop for us, and it's going to be that much better."
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