Accordingly, J.S. Nash, David Lucas, and sparsely used Vic Remmers and Derek Potter got the starting spots. With Jim Hanchett on the bench, one player had to step into that fifth spot. That player was junior Nick DeWitz - ironically enough, he was the one to make the night memorable. You can use all kinds of superlatives to describe the Iowa transfer's performance on Friday, but one term says it best: RECORD-HOLDER.
Before the game with the Cal Golden Bears, in front of 9,491 Beaver fans (many who had witnessed much of the 15 years that OSU went without a winning season), the five seniors were introduced to standing ovations, and in one case, shouts of "LOOOOOOOOOOOOOK." The players marched out to center court, accompanied by friends and family, and were presented with commemorative jerseys with their number on them. Then the starting lineups were read off, the ball was tipped, and the last home game of the Beavers' season began.
And oh the production. In the three minutes of play for the seniors in the first half, they scored zero points. No foul shots, no field goals. Derek Potter managed a pretty spectacular goaltending play, but the veteran Beavs failed to get the fires stoked early.
Luckily, Nick DeWitz showed the good ol' boys just how it was done, scoring five points on one three-pointer and a paltry deuce. Evidently Nick got quite tired of the two-ball early, because it was his only one of the half - the rest of his baskets were from beyond the arc.
Big D went crazy in the first half, scoring 17 points in 19 minutes of play, draining five-of-six three-pointers, and overall finding the net 67% of the time he put it up. Trailing 16-15, he sparked a 15-2 run that separated the Golden Bears and the Beavers enough to let OSU fans enjoy a relatively laid-back halftime, sitting on a 40-27 lead.
After the break, Operation Orange put the contest away.
Another 10-0 run to start the second period put OSU up by 23. Everyone got in on the action, with Sasa Cuic getting into double digits, and David Lucas putting in a quiet 20 points in his last game at Gill.
Kyle Jeffers earned mention in a game recap once again with some amazing play down low and around the ball. The young sophomore still has an enormous amount of improving to do before he's an All-Pac-10 player, and his box score stats (4 points, 2 rebounds, 0 assists, 3 turnovers) were utterly unimpressive, but he has come a long way from a freshman campaign that had at least one Beaver Believer sweating bullets everytime he touched the floor.
Jeffers is developing quite the touch down low, and no longer looks afraid to throw up a neat jump hook over a defender. Moreover, Kyle nailed a pretty jumper from the top of the key that displayed some nice range. By his senior year, Kyle Jeffers may develop into a consistent scoring and defensive threat for Oregon State if his progress continues.
Once OSU got up big, they never relinquished the lead. At one point, the Beavers led by 30 points over the team that destroyed them by 35 in Berkeley. When the seniors were let back into the game for garbage time, much of the lead was whittled down, but Vic Remmers's three kept the final score somewhat honest.
Praise and acclaim is definitely due for DeWitz's performance on Saturday. His seven three-pointers tied a school record set by Gary Payton (who was playing the last time Oregon State had a winning season), and he later proclaimed it his best game he ever played. Certainly he earned himself a spot on some watch lists for All-Pac honors.
But one play in particular stands out in this reviewer's mind. Cuic scored in double figures, but had a tough night from the field, shooting just 4-11. Holding the ball, wide-open behind the arc, the Croatian Sensation aired out a three that went awry. The next time down the court, DeWitz had an open lane that would have enabled an easy lay-up had he chosen to capitalize. Instead, he dished off to an open Sasa Cuic, who laid it up and was fouled. A free throw later, and Cuic had himself a three-point play.
This kind of unselfish play can pay massive dividends for Oregon State beyond a simple two points. The lay-in by Cuic was a huge confidence boost for the young freshman, who has often struggled throughout the season. Sure enough, the next time down the court, Sasa nailed a three-pointer. Two points for DeWitz were sacrificed for six for Cuic, and a boost of confidence that could last for games.
Most importantly, OSU won the game. This broke a 14-game losing streak to Cal, and secured a spot in the Pac-10 Tourney for the boys in orange. It brought them to 8-8 in conference, and finished a home docket that saw only one loss. The Beavs are all alone in 5th place in the conference, only a game behind UCLA.
And yes, Oregon State DID, finally, really, no joke, can't-ever-take-it-away SECURE a winning season regardless of the postseason. For the first time in 15 years, the Beavers are winners. With almost 10,000 people in the stands to watch, a winning team on the court, and a program headed in a positive direction, Saturday was an excellent glimpse into the past brightness of Beaver basketball.
Hopefully, it's also a preview of the future.
To all of the graduating seniors and all of the players and coaches past and present who made this turnaround possible, Beaver Nation salutes you.