Beavs remain in search of a second half

CORVALLIS -- Oregon State fell to the Stanford Cardinal Thursday night by a score of 82-72, in what can only be called a typical event for the 2013 Beaver basketball squad. You've heard this story before – a strong first half run with a clean finish by Roberto Nelson to put the Beavs up a point going into the locker room. But then… OSU had to play the second half.

Again, this is a familiar story. The Beavers are not a second half team and to constantly reiterate that is beating the proverbial dead horse. But after a 2013 conference run filled to the brim with losses, Craig Robinson indicated that this loss may have been the result of more than just fatigue.

"We were very laissez-faire in certain situations – in key situations," Robinson said. "It's almost as if, psychologically, we didn't want to win this game."

Robinson's demeanor told the story better than anyone else could – he looked tired as he sat in front of the press, his shoulders slumped a little more than usual as he addressed yet another Beaver loss.

"Well this wasn't our typical ‘play 38 minutes then blow it' – this was a little different." Robinson said. "I'm supremely disappointed in the way that it came about."

Robinson was primarily referring a rather miserable second half rebounding performance courtesy of the Beaver basketball squad. Oregon State went from out-boarding the Cardinal 24-13 through the first 20 minutes to being on the opposite side of the spectrum – the Cardinal ended the game with 40 rebounds to OSU's 37, packing in ten offensive rebounds in the final half compared to the Beavers six.

"It came down to rebounding and toughness, something that we typically do pretty well." Robinson said. "I know those guys in the locker room know that and are disappointed, especially coming in here for Joe's last weekend (at home).

"But we've still got more basketball to play."

Whatever aggression the Beavs displayed during the former half of the contest was snuffed out like a candle in a hurricane once the final 20 minutes rolled around. Initially, it looked as if a solid defensive front led by Eric Moreland, Jarmal Reid and Nelson was going to keep both Josh Huestis and Dwight Powell out of double-double territory, an area where both forwards have become increasingly comfortable as the season has progressed. As the first buzzer sounded, both Powell and Huestis had only mustered four points apiece, with two and three boards respectively.

But the second half was when Powell and Huestis sliced into the Beaver defensive formations and started picking up big rebounds and crucial second chance points. Stanford's pair of junior forwards ended the night with double-doubles in their pockets, and Huestis walked leading the Cardinal scorers with 20 points on the night.

Perhaps more surprising than Oregon State's apparent lack of toughness in the clutch was the lackluster presence that they displayed beyond the three point marker on Thursday.

It has – quite literally – been a season of hits and misses for Oregon States main perimeter shooters, but tonight was simply ugly. Robinson's boys found the net only twice on fifteen attempts from beyond the arc. It wasn't so much lack of effort or excellent defense – the shots just weren't falling.

Nelson shot 1-9 from the arc on Thursday evening, with most of those misses coming in the second half when the players and the fans could have both used a little boost.

And speaking of little things – tonight was not the night for Ahmad Starks. The 5-9, 165 junior guard only attempted three shots Thursday, missing all three. Only one of those shots was from the beyond the perimeter, where Starks has typically been very comfortable. Usually a team leader, Starks just was not on his game. Moreland also seemed timid Thursday, despite 11 points and 11 rebounds to accompany those points. The 6-10 sophomore had two lazy passes that cost his team points – he also neglected to put the ball up on a few occasions despite being open.

Robinson maintains that each loss the Beavers suffer is a team loss – never the result of one player not stepping up – rather the result of the whole team not stepping up to win a game. To Robinson, it isn't just a matter of "first half, second half" – it's a matter of desire.

"It looked like [the game] meant more to them than it did to us," Robinson said. "And that's the danger you run in playing the way we have this season. There is no need to yell and scream. These guys have a game plan, and if they follow the game plan they win – if they don't follow the game plan sometimes you'll still win. But not this season. You don't have the horses to not execute and still win."

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