Beavs go for second win in as many days

OREGON STATE WAS red hot in the first half. Until they weren't. But when it mattered most, the Beavs were stout on both ends of the floor and hit their free throws, winning 69-64 and advancing to a showdown vs. the No. 1 seed in the Pac-12 Tournament.

It looked like a blowout early. Ahmad Starks was drilling treys right and left. The Oregon State D was frustrating the Cougars. And suddenly, the Beavs held an early 16-point lead. Game over?

Not quite. After hitting four from downtown in the game's first six minutes, Starks wouldn't make another bucket. Jared Cunningham had an off-night, he would score only four points.

WSU stormed back to take a one-point lead at the half. And then WSU held a six point lead.

It was going to be one of those losses that linger, the ones that drill you in the gut in the immediate knowledge after the clock hits zeros that a 16-point lead had been squandered.

But then the Beavers went inside, the same way that WSU had done when they forged runs of 24-4 and 31-14 in the first half. OSU erased a six-point WSU lead and took a lead themselves. And inside the final two minutes, when close games are ultimately won and lost, OSU hit their foul shots down the stretch while the Cougars struggled.

They nailed four straight free throws to snap a 60-60 tie and take the lead for good.

That the Beavers won without Cunningham, the conference's leading scorer, ever getting on track was a blessing in disguise. Four Beavs scored in double figures, and each stepped up at critical junctures. It bodes well for the game against UW on Thursday.

Devon Collier scored 19 points and grabbed six rebounds. Eric Moreland (nine points, 12 rebounds) cleaned up inside the paint. Starks only scored one point in the game's final 33 minutes but his early barrage would mean he went for 13 points in the game, all of which were needed.

And Joe Burton, who has been quiet in recent games, scored 13 points, the loudest of which were off his layup via a pristine pass from Roberto Nelson to give the Beavs an insurmountable 66-61 lead.

Oregon State (18-13) will play in a national postseason tournament. They've already assured themselves of a winning season, a rarity over the last two decades. But it still feels like this team is destined for something more.

OSU is capable of explosive runs that rival just about anyone. They're also capable of long droughts and missteps on the defensive end. Both were in evidence in the win over WSU.

Oregon State is well capable of knocking off No. 1 seeded Washington on Thursday. But their inconsistency makes them also vulnerable.

But if Cunningham comes alive against the Huskies, and four other Beavs again score in double figures, Oregon State could be well on their way to a magic carpet ride. Four wins in four days? That's a tall order. A really tall order.

But one also within their grasp.

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