Before I really get into the game, however, I’d like to make a pitch to those who chose to watch the game on TV instead of attend the game in Gill. I’ve been going to Beaver games for several years now, and there really is nothing like them. Understand that I’m a football fan first, and a basketball fan second. But there’s nothing better to soothe a raging gridiron craving than a Beaver basketball game.
This Beaver team is the best I’ve seen in some years. They have more depth than probably any team in the league, have guys that shoot inside and out, and can beat any team in the country on their court.
Men’s basketball is well worth the price of admission. On Saturday, to the great pleasure of the student section, the Beavs put on a bit of slam dunk exhibition during shoot-around. Oregon State fed off the energy in Gill and almost pulled off an upset.
The Beavers came out firing on all cylinders, and for a while appeared to be the same team that demolished Arizona State. Nick DeWitz got the game stared on the right foot on an explosive one-handed dunk for OSU’s first deuce. Over 10,000 people stood on their feet as they watched their team go from 9 points down to up by 15 halfway through the first half.
But foul trouble and bad shooting from the stripe ultimately brought the game much closer. DeWitz got two quick fouls, earning himself a seat on the bench. That was only the beginning, though. By the end of the half, both teams found themselves in the double bonus. The difference, as is true in most cases, was execution.
OSU, for the most part, was stone-cold at the line. Sasa Cuic and J.S. Nash who rarely miss from the line misfired a total of three free throws. Lamar Hurd missed two and as a team, OSU shot 71.9% on free throws – a misleading stat considering the improvement in the second half.
Arizona showed why they’re the 13th team in the country by doing what they do best: converting opportunities into points. Only Hassan Adams and Channing Frye missed free throws. Adams missed his only opportunity, and Frye missed two out of his twelve chances. Everyone else was perfect, making Arizona almost 89% from the line. At the line or off of it, the Wildcats appeared to be the best-shooting team the Beavers have played this year.
Using the free-throw line and the, ahem, questionable calls of the zebras, Arizona whittled the lead down to three with 35 seconds left in the half. On OSU’s final possession of the first half Jason Fontenet held the ball for 25 seconds before driving to the basket on a high screen to the hoop, where he found Kyle Jeffers. Jeffers seemed shocked, muffed the lay-up, and lost the ball. An Arizona player picked the ball up and was promptly fouled by an overzealous and frustrated Jeffers.
With 1.5 seconds left, Portland native Chris Rodgers gracefully took his gift and the three-point lead was one at half.
In the second half, it was the same old song. Arizona and Salim Stoudamire (seemingly unaffected by the calls of “TRATIOR” and “YOU’RE NOT DAMON” by the students) could do no wrong, and the Beavers could do no right. Stoudamire knocked a three in halfway through the second, giving Arizona their biggest lead of the game at 10 points, 76-66.
OSU managed to keep the Wildcats within 8-10 points for the next several minutes before making what would be their last serious rally at the Wildcats.
Oregon State had Arizona down to a five-point lead. The Beavs had the ball, and the crowd was on it’s feet. The ball swung around to J.S. Nash on the wing – wide-open, and behind the three-point line with about a minute left. Nash puts up a BEAUTIFUL three-pointer, which hits the rim, spins around, and finally DROPS…out to a Wildcat defender. The Wildcat is, of course, fouled, and goes to the line.
He makes two. That’s your ballgame.
Both teams ended up with four players in double figures. Both teams ended up being greatly hindered by the over enthusiastic refereeing. But two things separated the teams: rebounding, and foul shooting.
Arizona joined the long list of teams to out-rebound the Beavers this year, with a 33-19 edge. In the end, both teams were in foul trouble, and the Beavs, with more bench depth, should have been the ones to capitalize. They didn’t, and the Wildcats ended up winning. Clyde was nowhere to be found when the game was over.
Perhaps more importantly, though, was the Beavers’ inability to disqualify any Arizona players. Five Wildcats, including Salim Stoudamire and Channing Frye, played the second half with three fouls or more. The Beavs were only able to draw the fifth foul on Mustafa Shakur. On the other side of the ball, DeWitz, Hurd, and Fontenet - arguably three of the most productive guys on the team – were taken out of the game due to foul trouble.
The good news for Beaver fans is that the Ducks lost to ASU, keeping them tied with OSU in conference. More importantly, the third place team (Stanford) is now only one game ahead of Oregon State, but also must play them on January 27th. The bad news is, it is an away game.