Final Score: Oregon St. 95 Illinois-Chicago 53
Oregon St. head coach Craig Robinson wanted to see how the Beavers would bounced back from a bad outing in last Friday's 74-60 home loss against Idaho, and he liked what he saw Tuesday night. Oregon St. torched the Illinois-Chicago Flames out of the Horizon League for a 42 point win, and it could have been more had Robinson not played the bench nearly as much as his starters.
"We are really happy with that win," Robinson said. "Friday was an anomaly, and that is how these guys approached the game. They came out like Friday had never happened, and I was really pleased to see that."
Jared Cunningham, who missed every shot he took from the field against Idaho, bounced back to his highlight video ways, opening the game with a cross-lane bounce pass assist and a steal and dunk. However, he picked up a pair of quick fouls, and sat down early.
It didn't matter though, as Roberto Nelson came off the bench, and buried back to back 3 pointers, which opened a 19-6 Oregon St. lead, and the rout was on.
The Beavers opened leads or 31-15, 40-17, and by halftime, 45-21, as they shot 59% from the field, and knocked down 3 of 7 3 pointers. This after shooting just 33% against Idaho, and making only 3 3's the entire game.
Nelson had 10 points by the break, and the team's solid shooting early produced the largest halftime lead of the Robinson era.
The second half started a touch on the sloppy side, but Cunningham reinvigorated the Oregon St. effort by turning a turnover into another highlight video dunk, and the Beavers were off and running again.
Nelson buried 3 consecutive 3 pointers midway in the second half, as Oregon St. opened a 78-44 lead. The lead grew to 83-47 with 7 minutes left, as the Beavers were shooting 64% at that point.
"It felt good," Nelson said of the streak of 3 pointers. "Finally the shots are starting to fall. I've been working hard in practice, and trying to make the shots I shoot in practice more `game-like'. And the guys did a good job at getting me open shots and screening for me."
The largest lead was 43 points, and the Beavers finished having shot 58% from the field, and 53% from 3 point range, as well as making 75% of their 28 free throws. The win was Robinson's 50th. as the Oregon St. coach.
Nelson finished with a game high 21 points, and Cunningham added 16. Both Ahmad Starks, who hit both the 3s he tried, and Devon Collier added 12 points apiece, and Angus Brandt just missed double digits, with 9 points.
Collier, who entered the game as the Pac-12's leading percentage shooter, having made 65% of his shots so far this season, padded that percentage with several high percentage dunks, and 6 of 9 shooting for the night.
Eric Moreland managed only 8 points off the bench, but led everyone with 14 rebounds, and also swatted away 5 shots. In all Oregon St. had 7 blocked shots.
Oregon St. had 20 assists, distributed amongst 8 of the 13 players who got into the game, including all 5 starters.
Challe Barton benefited from Cunningham's temporary foul trouble, getting 18 minutes of time off the bench. He turned that into 7 points, including an impressive finger roll play down the side of the lane, 4 assists, which co-lead along with Starks, and a steal.
Joe Burton only had one put-back basket, but had 8 rebounds, second high in the game behind Moreland, 2 steals, and 2 assists, including one after a behind the back dribble that split a double team at the top of the key. Burton's overall ball handling for a big man continues to be a major disruption for opponents.
The Oregon St. defense did still give up some open shots, 3 pointers included, due to late defensive rotations, which was a large part of the problem against Idaho. Overall, however, the defense out-played the Illinois-Chicago, getting 15 steals, and holding the Flames under 30% shooting (17 of 57), and 23% (5 of 22) on 3 pointers.
No one from Illinois-Chicago got into double figures scoring or rebounding. Daniel Barnes and Greg Travis off the bench co-led the Flames, with 8 points each.
The Beavers also out-rebounded the Flames 45-26.
Cunningham, notably, didn't pick up another foul after the early ones, adjusting to the officiating and the Flames' attack. Cunningham also had a game high 5 steals, which moved him into the top 10 all time at Oregon St.
The Flames don't employ a zone defense, and their man-to-man was overmanned against the Beavers. Oregon St. had 16 fast break points, and didn't allow any.
This was a game Oregon St. should have won about as they did. The Beavers were the overall bigger team, and also the more athletic and deeper squad. And despite having only one senior, Oregon St. has 3 times the experience, in terms of total games played by the roster, as Chicago-Illinois.
But after the struggle against Idaho, it was important that the Beavers did bounce back as they did in this, the middle game of the current 5 game home stand, especially given the relatively small and quiet holiday break crowd of 3,477 that only filled Gill up a little over 1/3 rd, and minimized the home court advantage.
Oregon St. improved to 7-2, and will next face Howard (3-7) from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) Thursday night at 7 PM, in a no-TV game. The home stand concludes Sunday evening at 7 PM, against Portland St., when ROOT Sports Northwest will be back.
Chicago-Illinois dropped to 3-6 on the season.