Big lead, late drama in OSU win in CBI finals

WHAT WOULD AN Oregon State hoops game be without a little drama. The Beavs built a 21-point lead in the second half and then watched as it all but disappeared. But in the end, OSU did just enough to hold off UTEP 75-69 in the first game of the CBI Finals. And now they're one win away from the title.

Oregon State (17-17) was cruising along in front of 8,029 at Gill Coliseum on Monday night. They were shooting lights out at over a 60 percent clip, and had built a 52-31 lead with 14:31 left on the clock. And then UTEP started to make their way back.

UTEP went on a 26-9 scoring run, cutting the OSU lead to 61-57 with 4:03 left. Seth Tarver's driving one-hander pushed the margin back to six but UTEP answered with a dunk. Later, UTEP closed to within three with 1:13 left on the clock at 66-63 and Beaver fans started getting nervous indeed.

But Oregon State hit just enough of their free throws -- the Beavs still missed three of their final six, but eight of their final 10 points came from the line -- to close the door on the Miners.

Lathen Wallace, who has been instant offense for the Beavs to start both halves in recent games, drilled five three pointers on his way to 18 points. Roeland Schaftenaar did him one better, with 19 points to lead the Beavs. The big man also logged six assists.

Seth Tarver was perfect on the evening, shooting 8 of 8 from the field and finishing with 17 points. Meanwhile, Rickey Claitt chipped in 13 points and hit some critical buckets when OSU needed them most.

OSU opened the game on a 9-0 run and what was most impressive wasn't that the shots were falling from long range, though they were, but that the Beavs were also driving to the hoop. Seth Tarver and Josh Tarver have both been contributing inside points of late and Monday was no exception.

After the Beavs took a 35-29 lead at the half, Oregon State went on a 12-0 run, fueled by Wallace's three three-pointers, to start the second half on their way to building the 21-point advantage.

On the night, OSU shot 60.5 percent, including 68.4 percent in the second half. The Beavers' 1-3-1 zone trap was the catalyst in the win, confusing and confounding UTEP much of the night.

If Oregon State, the last Pac-10 team still playing in late March, is to win the CBI title, they'll have to do it on the road.

While OSU is one win away from becoming tournament champions and posting a winning record, the next two games in the best of three series are scheduled to be played at UTEP. Every CBI game so far the Beavs have played so far has been at Gill.

OSU and UTEP tip it off next at 7 pm on Wednesday. The game is televised by HDNet.

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