Oregon State played alongside Washington State for 20 minutes on Thursday, before finally deciding to please the hometown crowd of 5,833 rabid Beaver fans and one Ken Simonton in attendance by gaining the lead for good. The good news is that for 39 minutes and 30 seconds, OSU played stifling defense to keep Wazzu under the fabled 50 points, the magic number for warm, cheesy breadsticks for the student section. The bad news is that a meaningless three-pointer put the Cougs over 50.
And, oh yeah, Oregon State won the game.
The contest was both a welcome change from the Pullman debacle and a somewhat expected continuation of a trend that all of Beaver Nation has been pleased to see: OSU winning at home. The Beavers continued their development into a quality team by doing right all of the things that they had done wrong in Pullman. Rather than force shots, the Beavs played to Wazzu's tempo for much of the game, patiently waiting for open looks, then taking them. Nick DeWitz and David Lucas again combined for tremendous outings, punishing the Pullman boys down low and up top. More importantly, though, OSU played tight, hard defense all night long and converted the opportunities that presented themselves.
But, to the game.
Often, the story of a basketball contest is better told by the crowd watching it. Never was this more true than when the chant "BORING! BORING!" began emanating from the student section.
To give you an idea of just how terrible and sloppy the first half was, let me describe to you a situation. With three minutes left in the first half, Nick DeWitz took a seat on the bench. He not only had more points than any one Cougar player, but than all of the Cougars put together. His point total? A whopping nine points.
Both teams shot terribly for the majority of the first half. OSU managed a paltry 28% from the field in the first half, while a miniature "hot streak" enabled Washington State to bring their percentage up to almost 35%. Eighteen triples were shot in the first 20 minutes, but only four found the nylon. With Washington State walking into the locker room with a 21-19 halftime lead, the two teams had combined for a whole 40 points.
Oregon State head coach Jay John said after the game that he felt okay with the Beavs' position at halftime. They were playing defense well, and were taking care of the ball well. Coach John also thought that the shot selection of OSU wasn't to blame, just the ability to make the good looks fall.
Well, Coach John, that's why they have second halves.
Oregon State exploded out of the gate in the second half, going on a 20-5 run to pull way out in front of the Cougars, at one point leading by as much as 15. The Beavers shot the lights out in the second period, making 10 out of 17 shots (58.8%), and converting baskets when Washington State made a run at the lead. The effort was sparked mainly by three players: the usual suspects, DeWitz and Lucas, and underachieving sophomore (and cause of much mental anguish for the past two years) Kyle Jeffers.
Jeffers did his normal bit of contribution on the defensive side of the ball, but added back-to-back lay-ins on critical possessions that enabled Oregon State to gain momentum when they really needed it early in the second half. Kyle seemed to be everything he normally isn't, using his long frame to jockey for position, and then getting a good look at the hoop and putting it in. For two plays, at least, OSU had another true post player making plays on the floor.
But don't think that this game was all fun and games, Beaver fans. This is the 2004-2005 flavor of Oregon State basketball – nothing is EVER easy.
Wazzu might have been dead in the water if not for the amazing sharp shooting of guard Thomas Kelati. Sitting on a ten-point lead midway through the second, Kelati went to work, nailing threes on consecutive possessions to cut the Beaver lead to four. In response, OSU made their shots from the stripe, and lengthened the lead to nine. This cat-and-mouse game kept Beaver fans on the edge of their seats until the very last minute, as they watched the lead fluctuate from nine to five to seven to four to ten to seven to ten to seven again. Amazingly, Mike Parker reported in the post-game show that OSU went without a field goal for the last THIRTEEN MINUTES.
Luckily, unlike a team down the road that would play later, the Beavers could make their free throws, converting 21 of 29 from the stripe throughout the game.
The Beavers won mainly because of their patience in breaking down the methodical Washington State defense, good post play by the "bigs," and their tendency to make the big shots when it counted. They out-rebounded the Cougars, which is always a plus for this squad, and ended the game with a better shooting percentage in field goals, three-pointers, and free throws.
Next on tap for the Beavs are the dreaded 11th-ranked Washington Huskies, fresh (or not-so-fresh) off of an overtime shootout in Eugene. Beaver fans fall in one of two categories: Those who have the Husky game scarred into the back of the retinas for the rest of the lives, and those who have forced themselves to forget. Luckily, OSU get the Huskies at home, where they are 9-1 this season.
Preliminary reports indicate that Gary Coleman may make an appearance at the game, so pack up the family and be at Gill at 1:00 PM this Sunday for what we all hope will be more of a contest than last time.
- After the game, Kyle Jeffers (the post-game show's MVP) told Mike Parker
that he likes Washington State the least of all of the Pac-10 opponents he
has to play because of the simplicity of their offense and defense. "It's
the same thing every time down the floor," said Jeffers.
- With the win over the Huskies, OSU improves to 13-9 (5-6) on the season.
The 13 wins represents one more than all of last season with seven games
- Oregon State must win two of the next seven (including three home games) to earn their first winning season since 1990.