With so much on the line for the team as a whole, it’s quite shocking to see the Oregon State men’s basketball team come out so flat on the road in the last week-plus. First, it was in Eugene against the hated rival Oregon Ducks; now, it’s in Los Angeles against the slumping USC Trojans.
It’s either poor preparation (which falls on the coaching staff) or an inability for the players themselves to seize the moments. It doesn’t matter which, because if the Beavers don’t figure it out by Saturday’s regular-season finale at UCLA, they may not ever get a chance to recover.
Regardless, there is no excuse for falling behind by 20-plus points at halftime with an NCAA invitation hanging in the balance of the outcome. When OSU fell behind 51-28 in Eugene on February 21, it was shocking. To see it happen again last night in L.A. was just numbing: The Beavers trailed 56-33 halfway through the game against the Trojans.
USC had lost five of its last six games, no less, and the Trojans were under a lot of pressure. Then again, so was Oregon State, chasing its first March Madness trip since 1990. Guess which team responded better. The Beavers had no defensive answers in the first half, giving up eight three-point shots and letting USC shoot 61.8 percent from the floor.
“Give them credit for making shots, but for whatever reason, we just came out in a fog,” said Oregon State Head Coach Wayne Tinkle after the game when addressing the media. “This was a great opportunity for us. That’s the disappointing thing. It was a letdown coming out like that. We got frustrated, stopped playing defense, and from there, we got a little selfish. Shame on us.”
Shame on you, indeed. The loss drops the Beavers (17-11, 8-9 in Pac-12 games) back under .500 in conference games, and now they absolutely must beat the Bruins (15-15, 6-11) on Saturday. OSU went from a tie for sixth place in league with USC to owning ninth place all by themselves now.
The Beavers also hurt their own shot at 20 wins by letting USC get its 20th victory. While Oregon State’s RPI is still very solid (No. 31 currently), they desperately need to finish at .500 in the Pac-12. The Beavers also need to win at least one game—if not two—in the Pac-12 Championship Tournament in order to get the call to the Big Dance on March 13.
However, Oregon State is just a terrible road team. Overall, the Beavers are 3-8 away from Gill Coliseum this season, including just a 1-7 mark in Pac-12 play. They’ve lost on the road by an average of 13.0 points per game in league this year.
UCLA is having a bad season (by its standards), and perhaps that will help Oregon State on Saturday. The time has come to end the road nightmares for the Beavers, or else different nightmares will last them a lifetime.