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Kerry Eggers on Sports: Oregon State men want to get some momentum heading into Pac-12 tourney

TRES TINKLECORVALLIS — All of his teammates had finished their workouts and had either headed to the locker room or were sitting in chairs along the court, chatting and drinking water after Tuesday's practice session at Gill Coliseum.

But Tres Tinkle was still on the court, getting in 20 minutes of extra work, going around the horn for more than 100 extra 3-point shots.

"Do it all the time," said Oregon State's senior forward. "Trying to get better."

Tinkle has been good — very good — during an OSU career that is winding down. The son of head coach Wayne Tinkle plays the final two home games of his career at 6 p.m. Thursday against Stanford and at 1:30 p.m. Saturday against California.

"I'm sure it will hit me a lot more Saturday, when it's all said and done and I'm walking out with my family," the junior Tinkle said. "When that final buzzer goes off, that's my last time at Gill. It will be sad, but I'm going to try to go out on a high note and extend the season as long as possible."

Oregon State (15-13 overall, 5-11 in Pac-12 play) is 11th in the conference standings, ahead of only Washington (3-13). OSU could move up a couple of rungs by knocking off Stanford (9-7, 20-9) and Cal (7-9, 13-16). In January, the Beavers beat the Cardinal 68-63 and took the Bears to the wire in a 69-67 loss.

OSU has defeated five of the six teams in the top half of the standings, but lost five games by eight points or fewer.

"We aren't happy with where we're at," Tres said. "We've hurt ourselves by playing poorly at times, but we've shown we can beat the top teams in our league. That's frustrating, but the coaches tell us to keep believing.

"If we're firing on all cylinders, there's no reason why we can't get some momentum going and make a run. There's still a lot to play for; the postseason is a whole new season. It's all about getting hot at the right time."

Tinkle, who turns 23 in June, is a lock to be named to the all-Pac-12 team for the third straight year. He leads the conference in steals (1.82 per game), ranks fourth in scoring (18.1), ninth in rebounds (7.1), 10th in free-throw percentage (.803) and 11th in assists (3.3). No other player has such wide-ranging cred.

"He'll tell you he hasn't shot it as he'd like to," his father said, "but overall, he's had another great year."

Tres is shooting .441 from the field, not bad considering every time he touches the ball inside the 3-point line he gets immediate attention from multiple defenders. The number is driven down by his futility from 3-point range. It's at an acceptable .346 for the season, but the figure drops to .236 in 17 league contests — surprising for a southpaw whose stroke is solid enough that it would seem he should fire at a 40 percent clip from beyond the arc.

"It's a little bit mental, but I also know every single (opponent) makes me their (defensive) focus," he said. "I don't think anyone else in the league is guarded the way I am. There aren't a lot of open (3-point attempts). But there are some games where the ball just hasn't gone in, and that's where it becomes mental."

"I think it got to a point where he started pressing and tried to guide all of (the 3-point shots) in," his father said. "He just has to free his mind up. He is carrying a lot of weight on his shoulders. He felt bad we dropped some games that first half and put it on himself. I told him to let it go. No wins are credited to one guy; no losses, either. Free your mind up and go play. Hopefully, down the stretch he'll finish strong and shoot it like we know he's capable."

Tinkle's career numbers suggest he is among a small group of the greatest players in Oregon State history. With six points against Stanford, he'll pass Gary Payton to become the school's leading career scorer and rank No. 7 on the Pac-12 list. With 12 rebounds, the 6-7 Tinkle will go by A.C. Green and move into No. 2 on the OSU career list.

Tinkle has scored the most field goals in school history and will finish among the top 10 in free-throw percentage.

"I'm honored to have my name in the mix of some of the greats who have played here," he said.

With six more steals, Tinkle will move past Brent Barry into fourth on the school's career list.

"My sister Elle (a former Gonzaga star) is happy about that," Tres said, chuckling. "She's the defensive specialist in the family. I told her I won't let her be the only one. It's all about anticipation, and my near seven-foot wingspan allows my hands to get on a lot of passes. I have quick hands, too."

Perhaps most remarkably, Tinkle has scored in double figures in a school-record 93 straight games, a streak dating to November 2016, when he scored nine points in a game against Lamar.

"Tres has just been a model of consistency," his father said. "He has been the No. 1 focus on the other teams' scouting report for three years in a row, and he keeps producing. I couldn't be more proud of him. He has had a heck of a career here at Oregon State."

To get there has not been easy.

"I always say, 'Hard work is undefeated,'" Tinkle said. "I take pride in everything I do, being consistent with my every-day routine. If you let one thing slide — whether it's on the court or in the classroom — it's going to translate.

"I hang my hat on consistent effort. I've lived in the gym. We have a great coaching staff, a great support system around me to help me get better and grow as a player and as a person."

Tinkle went through the NBA draft process after his junior season, then opted to return for a final year at OSU. It was a chance to grow physically, improve his game and play a final season under his father. That has also given his mother, Lisa, and sisters Elle and Joslyn another year to watch their favorite player perform.

"It's been a great year for that, for being with my dad and having my sisters and my mom around," Tres said. "It's been super special to have a final season with my dad.

"He and I have each other's back. He's going to fight for me; I'm going to fight for him. He knows what he's doing. I see the passion he puts into it, knowing how much he cares for everyone on our team. He wants to make you a better man, not just a better player."

The pleasure, said the coach, has been his.

"It's been a joy to coach Tres one more time, especially the way he lays it on the line every night," the senior Tinkle said. "That's why the Oregon State fan base respects him so much. They remember not just a guy scoring or rebounding but also taking charges and diving for balls.

"It makes you really proud to have your son embody that and also be one of your best players. We've had ups and downs, but our relationship is so much deeper than what it was when he came here. That makes it all worthwhile. He gave us everything he had. He gave it all to OSU. He'll leave quite a legacy with our program."

Tres didn't achieve the team success he dreamed of when he arrived at OSU five years ago. In games Tres has played, the Beavers were 87-73 overall but only 39-49 in Pac-12 play. They reached the NCAA Tournament in 2016 — his father's second season — for the first time since 1990, but Tinkle missed the final five games with a foot injury. The Beavers were 18-13 overall and 10-8 in Pac-12 play last season, the first winning league record since 1990, but didn't make the postseason.

The junior Tinkle is hoping this year's team can catch lightning in a bottle and see postseason action, but it will take a dramatic turnaround. That said, he believes he is leaving his father's team in a positive situation.

"The program is going in the right direction," he said. "We have the right people here. They've recruited the right guys. We're getting it done in the classroom. We have quality people who you don't lose sleep over at night."

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@kerryeggers


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