LAS VEGAS -- No. 6-seed Oregon State moved one step closer to making its first NCAA Tournament in 26 years, after downing No. 11-seed Arizona State 75-66 in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament on Wednesday, and now, the Beavers (19-11) will square off for the third time this season against No. 24 California.
The Bears come into Thursday's 8:30 p.m., contest having won just four games away from Haas Pavilion this season, but having won three of their last four on the road, and eight of their past nine.
"We played tough [against the Bears]," Thompson, Sr., said. "They're a big, physical, strong team, and we just matched their physicality. We matched their intensity and we just played them really tough. That was another good team win that we had against them. We're going to have to have that effort again tomorrow night."
Gary Payton II tallied his 11th career double-double of his career in the Beavers' win over the Bears in Corvallis, with 20 points, 11 rebounds, eight assists, one block and four steals. Against the Sun Devils on Wednesday, though, Payton was a non-factor in the first half, going 0-for-2 shooting with just one rebound and one assist, though he did have two steals and was the highest-rated player in the plus-minus (+9) on either team. In the second half, though, he went 4-for-6 from the floor, yanking down eight rebounds, dishing out one assist and adding two more steals, as Arizona State turned the ball over 12 times on the evening.
Both the Arizona State and Oregon State shot under 32% for the first half, with three-point shooting proving particularly difficult. After hitting 3-of-4 treys in the first 3:06 of the game, the Beavers went just 1-for-11 through the rest of the first half, but still held a nine-point lead for much of the stanza.
Arizona State went 1-of-11 overall from beyond the arc in the first half, but started the second half 2-of-4 from long distance against the Oregon State zone. The Beavers, though, were able to solve the Sun Devils' zone rather quickly, hitting 2-of-2 threes and then getting a steal and one-handed slam dunk by Payton to cap off a 7-0 run by Oregon State, putting the Beavers ahead by 14.
Cal has shot 40-of-102 from three-point land over its last five games, and has progressively gotten better against zone teams as the year has progressed.
How much zone can the Bears (22-9) expect on Thursday night?
"We'll see. We'll mix it up," said Oregon State assistant Stephen Thompson, Sr. "I thought tonight we actually played the last couple games a little more man than what we normally played. So we'll mix it up and see what's working, and see how we can shut them down. But you'll see a combination of defenses."
Without wing Tres Tinkle, the Beavers switched three gourds on and off the ball, primarily, with Payton most often bringing the ball up, and Malcolm Duvivier and Stephen Thompson Jr. taking turns at the point, off the ball, and at the three. Tinkle has been called "week-to-week" with a broken metatarsal, and was in a walking boot on Wednesday.
Duvivier finished with 12 points on 3-of-8 shooting, hitting two late free throws to put the game away.
Without Tinkle, Oregon State played 10 men on Wednesday, with all 10 tallying points.
"Well, at this stage of the season, all hands on deck," Thompson, Sr., said. "We need everybody to contribute, and we had some great contributions off the bench early. I look here, Jarmal Reid, 10 points, Big G [Gligorije Rakocevic], six points, and Langston [Morris-Walker] in the first half, four points. So it was great. I mean, that bench lifted us, and we need that.
"Here on out you're going to need it. When you start getting to this time, everybody knows what you can do. You're scouted and they try to take away your main options. I think somebody asked a question earlier, Gary was scoreless in the first half, so other guys had to step up and that's what it takes to win it this time of the year. Malcolm came in in double figures as well. Guys stepped up. It was a great team effort. One of our best team efforts of the whole season, offensively and defensively."
"I don't see any reason why we can't keep winning," Payton said. "It doesn't hurt us if we keep winning, so we're just going to leave no doubt and go out there and play and of course try to win.
"They'll play hard," Cal head coach Cuonzo Martin said. "They've played hard all year, so it won't be a case of them playing harder. Wayne does a tremendous job of getting his guys to compete and play hard. You've got a veteran guy like Gary Payton II who plays hard, plays well, competes at a high level, they have good young guys, they'll battle. That's to be expected. They won't catch anybody off guard if they're competing and playing hard, because they do that all the time."
The two teams will play at 8:30 p.m., Thursday, on FOX Sports 1 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
"Just like Gary said: 'Why not?,'" said Thompson, Sr. "We split with them, and now we're going to win this game tomorrow. It's going to be a tough game. They're a really good team. They finish really well down the stretch. I think they are number one in defense in our conference, so we know it's a battle. It's going to be a war. They're sitting there watching us tonight, so they're well-rested. But at this time I don't think it matters. We're going to go out and give it a fight and we're looking to come out on top."
Head coach Wayne Tinkle was visibly ill during the contest, but should be back on the bench for Thursday's tilt.
"Yeah, he's really sick, and I'm really proud of the fact that he even came out," Thompson, Sr., said. "It just shows to the character and the toughness that he has that he even coached tonight's ballgame. Our guys needed him, and he knew it, and he just was determined to get out there and do it. So he's pretty sick, so he's going to get some rest tonight, and I know he'll be ready to go again tomorrow night."