After trailing for nearly the entire second half in the Diamond Head Classic consolation bracket semifinal, Oregon State used a 10-5 run in the final 1:55 to overtake George Mason and then hold them off on a sunny Honolulu morning. The game tipped off nearly two hours after getting the wonderful news that senior center Angus Brandt went down with only a bruised knee in last night’s game against Akron, meaning he is currently day-to-day and hopes to play Wednesday afternoon in the fifth place game.
The big Aussie did, however, miss this morning's contest, and thankfully there were no other injuries for the shorthanded Beavers.
Unlike in yesterday's game against the Zips, the Beavers came out with some energy, and while some point-blank shots were missed early on, it was a nice contrast to the tournament opener. Sophomore forward Daniel Gomis impressed for the second straight day in place of Brandt, pulling down eight rebounds to go along with five points and five blocks.
"Fantastic, not even close to where he was before he broke his leg," said head coach Craig Robinson on the play of Gomis.
Senior Patriot guard Byron Allen provided the most trouble for the Beavers, scoring 15 points and making six of his ten attempts from the field.
The Beavers led for the first 19 minutes and 40 seconds of the first half before guard Patrick Holloway hit a three-pointer to put second year coach Paul Hewitt's club up 30-29 heading into the locker rooms. Both teams struggled mightily to connect early on in the second half, with a total of just 13 points being scored in the initial six and a half minutes. The game was even at 35 at that point, but George Mason's Sherrod Wright went on a 4-0 run all by himself to swing all the momentum to the Patriot side.
The game's biggest swing occurred heading into the final media timeout when sophomore guard Langston Morris-Walker got himself to the free throw line for two shots. He made both after the commercial break, pulling the Beavers to within 48-46.
Allen turned the ball over on the next trip, and Gomis bailed out a poorly forced jumper by Hallice Cooke on the other end of the court, tipping in the miss to even things up at 48.
Patriot forward Jalen Jenkins broke the tie with 2:10 remaining by splitting a pair of free throws, but that would be GMU's final lead. Senior forward Devon Collier finished on a great pass from Roberto Nelson on the next trip down the floor, putting the Beavers up one. Oregon State then stepped up for what could arguably be its biggest stop of the year to date, playing great defense for 30 seconds before forcing Hewitt to use his final timeout.
The tight D continued after the inbounds pass, and Marko Gujanicic ended up having to force up a wild three as the shot clock expired. The attempt missed, Cooke grabbed the rebound, and after draining the shot clock all the way down, Nelson hit a step back jumper with 40 seconds left to make the score 52-49.
George Mason was given new life ten seconds later when a phantom foul was whistled on Collier, sending Allen to the line, where he promptly hit both tries to cut the deficit down to one. With the shot clock turned off, they were forced to turn the game into a free throw shooting contest, which the Beavs would win thanks to Nelson.
The senior calmly knocked down all six of his freebies in the final 30 seconds, icing the victory for Oregon State.
Allen threw in a prayer with one second left on the clock to make the final 58-54.
Nelson was the game's leading scorer with 17 points, and he was followed closely behind by Collier with 15.
Holloway was the Patriots second-leading scorer with 12 of his own, all of which were made from behind the arc. Jenkins came off the bench to score eight and record six rebounds.
Freshman point guard Malcom Duvivier ended up being big for Oregon State in only 17 minutes of action. He hit a pair of triples at crucial points to keep the Beavers from falling too far behind, and from giving too much momentum to the Patriots.
Morris-Walker matched Gomis for five points as well to tie for the team's fourth best scorer. Challe Barton followed up a great nine point performance against Akron with a bit of a disappointing one, only taking three shots.
The game was played in front of a small but enthusiastic crowd, one that did not include the President of the United States. Beaver fans appeared to slightly outnumber those of George Mason's, which doesn't come as a surprise, considering the travel distance and the fact the football team plays tomorrow across the way at Aloha Stadium. There could be a much bigger and hostile environment on Wednesday depending on how tonight's Saint Mary's-Hawaii contest shakes out.
Beaver fans can now turn their full attention to that game to be played at Aloha Stadium, which will kickoff at 5:00 PM Pacific tomorrow night against Boise State. The Broncos were the ones making national headlines today after senior quarterback Joe Southwick, sent home by interim head coach Bob Gregory, presented the results of a lie detector test which apparently proves that he did not urinate over a hotel balcony while in Honolulu.
On the basketball court, the Beavers improved to 7-3 on the season and will play at either 10:30 AM or 1:00 PM Pacific (8:30 and 11:00 AM HST) on Wednesday, in a game to be televised by ESPNU. They get the winner of Saint Mary's-Hawaii, which will be played tonight at 8:30 west coast time. The Christmas day tipoff time depends on that result, as the Warriors will play in the 11:00 AM HST game regardless of what your Diamond Head Classic bracket says.
George Mason dropped to 5-6 and is on a four game losing streak, with each defeat coming against a power conference opponent. They next get the loser of the aforementioned Gaels-Warriors battle.
This is a talented Patriot squad that is much better than they showed today (as are the Beavers). They should be able to improve their record significantly once conference play starts, and come March, this is going to look like a quality win.
For Oregon State, this was a huge victory. To be out-rebounded by nine and still come away with a win is very impressive.