Beavers creep closer to Pac-10 Tournament

Oregon State's nine-point victory, 65-56, over UCLA coupled with an amazing Stanford win at the buzzer over Washington State puts the Beavers in prime position to extend their season and play in the Pac-10 tournament for the second year in a row.

“When we went into the weekend, we just told the guys, don’t even try to figure out the Algebra on the tie-breaker,” OSU head coach Jay John said. “We’ve got two games in our own house, we’ve got to win. That’s all that matters. We’ve got to be prepared for a 40-minute battle.”

Chris Stephens led the Beavers with 18 points, 14 coming after halftime and J.S. Nash had all of his game-high seven rebounds and eight of his 11 points in the second half. Nash also added a game-high five assists.

Stephens hit five of seven shots in the second half, including three of five from behind the arc.

“Better not let a shooter get gun-shy, I can tell you that,” John said of Stephens’ dismal first half in which the 6’2” guard hit just one-of-six from the floor. “They (shooters) can change things and the three-ball is a big weapon.”

Dijon Thompson tied a Gill Coliseum record by hitting 7-of-9 from three-point range en route to a game-high 25 points. Thompson now shares that record with Gary Payton and Cal’s Amit Tamir.

The loss was UCLA’s fourth in a row, dropping them to 7-10 in conference. On the other hand, the Beavers’ win improves their Pac-10 record to 6-11, 4-4 in the second half of conference play. If they win on Saturday against USC, the Beavers will eclipse their conference win total of a year ago. Before tonight, UCLA had won four in a row in Corvallis.

“We’re playing to win, rather than hoping that other people lose and that’s the whole point,” John said.

David Lucas and Angelo Tsagarakis joined Stephens and Nash in double figures with 13 and 10 respectively.

T.J Cummings was the only Bruin other than Thompson in double figures with 12 points, 10 in the second half.

“On defense, they’re long and they’re tall,” Portland native Chris Stephens said. “They get in the paint they can cause trouble because they can rise up and shoot over us, but we’re ball players and we compete.

“So we’ve got to go out there and guard. They have what they have and we have what we have, you can’t worry about height, you just have to go out there and play.”
OSU trailed for the first 11:30 of the game before a Tsagarakis three-ball tied the game at 15. Less than a minute later a fade away by Lucas, one of only three field goals for the star forward on the game, gave the Beavers their first lead at 17-15.

UCLA would take a brief one-point lead shortly thereafter on one of Thompson’s record-tying seven three-pointers, but the Beavers would not trail again after a bucket by Lamar Hurd made the score 19-18 with just over six minutes remaining in the first half.

On an assist from Nash, Hurd made perhaps the biggest play of the game with three seconds left in the half as J.S. found him sneaking behind the Bruin zone for a hanging lay-in and one, as the kids say, on the foul by Michael Fey to give the Beavers a 28-24 halftime lead as well as some good momentum going into the break.

The game was tied twice in the second half, but after Thompson hit another of his shots from downtown at the 12:34 mark of the half to knot the game at 37, the Beavers went on a 9-0 run, capped off by an acrobatic left handed lay-in by Tsagarakis with 10:29 to go in the game.

Thompson then hit a pair of threes to make it a one possession game at 46-43, but Stephens came right back with a three of his own to stretch the lead back to six in favor of the home team.

The Bruins outscored the Beavers 10-5 over the next six minutes to make it a one point game, but again Stephens hit a three to increase the Beaver lead to four with 2:08 remaining in the contest.

That three was the start of an 11-3 Beaver run to end the game and hold off the talented UCLA team for the big victory.

“I think that this year, as opposed to last year, we’re a tighter knit team,” Stephens said. “We’re more gelled together because we came in this past summer and worked hard together and created a team chemistry that we didn’t have last year. I think that’s a big key for us winning games, pulling out games -- us believing in each other.

The number three was basically the sponsor of this game as three Beavers had three steals and OSU forced 18 UCLA turnovers in the game tonight. OSU out rebounded the Bruins 33-29.

OSU hosts USC on Saturday at 5:00 P.M. in a game that will be televised on FOX Sports Net.

Jake Schubert can be reached at jake.schubert@beaverfootball.com.


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