With their backs up against the wall somewhat, the Oregon State men’s basketball team kept their minimal NCAA Tournament hopes alive with a big 85-70 win at Gill Coliseum today over No. 21 USC. Already with two home losses in Pac-12 play this year and buried in the conference standings, the Beavers needed this win, and they got it.
Gary Payton II led the OSU squad with 22 points, 15 rebounds and eight assist as the Beavers (12-6) overcame a four-point halftime deficit with a strong second half at home. Tres Tinkle added 18 points, while Drew Eubanks tossed in 12 points, and Stephen Thompson, Jr. added 11 points. Five Oregon State players finished with four fouls apiece, as the Beavers defense was aggressive and nasty over the final 20 minutes of the game.
“It wasn’t a thing of beauty in the first half, but I thought it was key that we finished the half strong to keep it close,” OSU Head Coach Wayne Tinkle told the media after the game. “It wasn’t a thing of beauty. They’re a good team; there’s a reason that they’re ranked.”
The Trojans (15-5) made just 26.9 percent of their shot attempts in the decisive second half, while committing 14 turnovers total for the game. Meanwhile, OSU shot 52.9 percent in the latter half, combining its stellar defense with outstanding shotmaking. The Beavers even shot 18-for-21 from the free-throw line to heal that open wound from the last loss. Oregon State now has defeated USC seven consecutive times at Gill Coliseum.
OSU dominated the game with inside scoring, notching 50 points in the paint to USC’s 24 points down low. The Beavers also outran the Trojans, winning the fast-break battle, 13-8, as well. With the win, OSU stayed amid an eight-team scrum in the middle of the Pac-12: Those eight teams are currently either 4-3 or 3-4 in league action, and how the Beavers play from here on out will determine their conference seeding in the now-huge Pac-12 Tournament.
Next up for OSU’s men is a road trip to the Arizona schools: January 28 at Arizona State and January 30 at No. 12 Arizona. The Sun Devils are just 1-6 currently in Pac-12 play and in last place (tied with Washington State). Obviously, the Wildcats present more of a challenge. The trick for the Beavers will to not overlook ASU before they take on Arizona a few days later.
Oregon State still has a long road ahead of it to reach 20 wins this season, although this victory will certainly help its RPI situation. The Beavers are trying to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1990, and every win from here on out qualifies as a big one in terms of reaching that goal.