It was a win of resolve. It had to feel special.
Whether or not it constitutes a foundation win is another matter. And that matter is dealt with Saturday night when Ritchie McKay's Oregon State Beavers come to call.
Oregon State, 74-72 victors over Washington State on Thursday and winners of four straight over the Huskies, currently holds the eighth and final eligible spot for the PAC-10 tournament in March. And if Washington harbors hopes for a Staples Center appearance, this is a game they simply must have. For upcoming is a trip to Pullman to face a just-as-desperate Washington State, followed by a desert tour of Arizona.
A win would also give the Huskies their first sweep of a PAC-10 series in three years. And they better know it won't be easy – the Beavers have held second-half leads in 16 of their 18 games so far this season.
For Oregon State, junior guard Jimmie Haywood tossed in a career-high 23 points against the Cougars – including the last five points in a wild final minute. His steal of Marcus Moore and following free throws with 0.9 seconds left won it. Haywood, from Franklin High in Seattle, scored 13 and added six assists in the Beavers' win in Seattle last year. He is a 44-percenter from behind the arc.
Junior forward Philip Ricci had to wait a long time to don the OSU uniform, having arrived from San Joaquin JC two years ago only to lose last season to a knee injury. But his first PAC-10 season has been a success, what with four double-doubles to his credit. Coach McKay calls Ricci "the top newcomer in the conference", something that might interest Doug Wrenn. Ricci has a pair of 24-point efforts this season, and has been under double-figures only once. He also leads the conference in free throws attempted. If Wrenn should match up with Ricci it should be a sparkling battle. Junior forward Brian Jackson had a double-double (16 points, 10 boards) against Washington State, and lit Arizona for 21. Senior Adam Masten is a .453 shooter from three-point range and hits 89 percent from the line. Masten is OSU's leading assist man as well.
A pair of freshman guards, Joe See and J.S. Nash, represent the Beavers' backcourt future. Nash averaged 32 points a game his senior season at Rancho Verde High, though his shot has been slow to come around at the college level (only .154 from behind the arc). See has hit 21 three-pointers as the OSU sixth man.
A big key in this game could be the involvement of David Dixon. He still leads Washington in double-doubles with four, and Oregon State doesn't have a true big man inside to contend with him on the blocks outside of Brian Jackson, who is prone to foul trouble – as is Dixon.
Yes, it is a battle for eighth place. But you have to start pouring that foundation somewhere.
Still a Payton: Oregon State's senior guard Brandon Payton, after transferring from UC-Santa Barbara, wore number "02" for the first six games of the season, in honor of his brother Gary, who's number "20" has been retired at Gill Coliseum. But the NCAA declared that to be an ineligible number, so Payton has worn "2" since.
NEXT UP: Thursday, January 31 vs. Washington State at Pullman.
(Rick Samek can be reached at email@example.com)
OREGON STATE CL HT PTS REB WASHINGTON CL HT PTS REB Brian Jackson JR 6-9 12.8 4.2 Doug Wrenn SO 6-8 18.4 6.1 Philip Ricci JR 6-7 16.4 7.1 Grant Leep SR 6-7 8.3 4.4 Jimmie Haywood JR 6-2 9.1 3.1 David Dixon SR 6-11 7.6 7.9 J.S. Nash FR 6-1 4.4 2.0 Curtis Allen SO 6-0 12.8 4.8* Adam Masten SR 6-5 9.7 4.4 CJ Massingale SO 6-7 4.6 2.6 (* = Assists per game)