HOOPS: Turnovers doom Beavs

CORVALLIS— The game ended when Spencer Dinwiddie sank a final free throw to put Colorado up 72-68. It was a nail biter down to the bitter end – a battle where the Beavs truly showed their moxy against the visiting Buffalos. Roberto Nelson summed up Sunday night's contest quite succinctly – "We showed that we could hang with anybody". So what happened that left OSU hanging their heads?

Twenty-one turnovers – that's what happened.

"You can't play against a team this good and turn the ball over 21 times, that's the first thing I noticed" said Head Coach Craig Robinson. "The second thing is that I think we missed five, maybe even seven point blank shots - when you are playing against a defending champion, you've got to make those plays."

Peering at the tree bark may only bring up more questions of how the Beavs managed to drop this bout. Oregon State topped Colorado in every measurable category from free throws to assists – the glaring exception being that Colorado ended the night with ten steals to OSU's four – and many of those steals came during clutch second chance and fast break situations in the final minutes of the second half.

You could play up the agility, speed and tempo of the Buffalo's starting five, you can play up the fact that Dinwiddie shot a perfect night hitting all four of his shots from the field, as well as all eight of his free throw attempts.

But you can't play down the fact that by handing the ball over 21 times, the Beavs may well have handed themselves this loss. Still, turnovers don't just come out of thin air, so what happened?

"Nerves, youth – I know a couple of (the turnovers) were freshman, a couple of (turnovers) were guys trying to make plays," Robinson said. "And bad decisions too. It was a combination of those three things, and it's a shame because I thought we were playing so well."

Robinson had every right to claim that his team was playing well. Sunday night's performance was one of the most complete games Oregon State has put together since the beginning of conference play – sans the 21 turnovers and a rough start to the game that saw the Beavs down by as much as 11 points within the first few minutes.

"I actually didn't think it was a bad start, I think (Colorado) got off to a hot start and we had to get our footing," Robinson said. "But once we did, I think I was a pretty nice effort. I am very proud of the effort the guys put forth."

Regardless of slow starts -whatever was in the water kicked in for the Beavs with just under eight minutes remaining in the first half – Ahmad Starks was sinking threes like they were boulders in a pond on Sunday night, striking aerial gold on 5-9 from beyond the arc in the first half – mixing that with some savvy defense from Robinson's boys was the recipe to success.

The Beavs managed to whittle what had previously been as much as a 13 point gap down to a mere five points with just under three minutes remaining in the first half. Oregon State closed out the first 20 ahead of the visiting Buffalo's 34-33. A surprising reversal of sloppy beginnings for the Beaver's that left the crowd thinking "say whaaa?"

And in an inspiring twist from the norm, the second half ushered in not the tired, inconsistent OSU squad of conference games past, but rather a tenacious combination of smart ball handling and clutch shooting on behalf of Joe Burton and Nelson.

Nelson, who had tossed bricks on all three of his attempts from behind the perimeter during the first 20, opened up the second half for the Beavs with two quick threes and some sticky defense that led to Colorado blundering up and down the court for a spell, trying to keep pace with an electrified OSU platoon.

Yet in the end, Starks' hot hand from beyond the arc was put on ice, and the only people scoring other than the 5-9,165 guard were Burton and Nelson. Burton grabbed another double-double, earning 15 points, 12 rebounds and three assists.

Nelson carried the team for the better portion of the second half – his evening culminated in a total of 21 points, four rebounds and three assists. Starks cleaned up nicely, adding 20 points, a steal and an assist to his statistical spread.

Eighteen of those points came from Starks's efficiency along the perimeter – the junior closed out the night hitting 6-11, or 54 percent on his three point attempts.

It was a close game down until the final minute, with each team vying for the lead like two fat kids trying to gain leverage on a see-saw. When it came down to the nitty-gritty, Colorado had more weight behind them, and came out on top, handing the Beavers their ninth loss to a Pac-12 team this season. Win or lose, this was one heck of a fun game to watch.

Oregon State travels to Pullman later this week in an attempt to redeem themselves against a Washington State team that handed them a loss earlier this season.

Devon Collier scored his 1000th point tonight – attempted a running lefty under the net and missed by inches, but with a strong second effort lifted his own board back into the net for two.

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