Oregon State played well enough at the end of each half Wednesday to only fall by six points against Hawaii, but complete collapses on both ends of the court in the middle of each 20 minute session prevented the Beavers from leaving Honolulu with a winning record, and the consolation title. They now stand at 7-4 for the season, the first time they've lost more than three non-conference games since the 2010-11 campaign.
The Beavers could have used the services of senior center Angus Brandt, who was available to play after missing Monday's game with a bruised right knee, but was held out as a precautionary measure in a decision made by himself and head coach Craig Robinson.
The game tipped off at a breakneck speed, which proved to be too much to handle for Oregon State. Sophomore forward Daniel Gomis started in place of Brandt for the second straight game, but foul trouble and slow interior defense left the big guy leaving the Islands with a bad taste in his mouth.
Sophomore Rainbow Warrior forward Isaac Fotu provided the most trouble for the Beavers, scoring 17 points and beating Gomis badly to the hoop on multiple occasions.
"When you get out in Hawaii, it's nice weather and everything," junior point guard Challe Barton said. "You can get the feeling of a vacation sort of. You've got to know that the number one focus is basketball, not having fun. I think we got away from that a little bit."
It was Barton who netted a three-pointer on the first attempt coming out of the game's initial media timeout, putting the Beavers up 10-8. Little did we know, that would be the last OSU lead. Thanks to some suspect foul and travel calls, and lights out shooting by Hawaii, the hosts of the Diamond Head Classic led the Beavs 40-30 with 1:40 remaining in the opening half.
The Beavers found a dose of energy, however, and a quick 8-0 run put Robinson's club behind by just two points as they headed into the locker rooms. That's when things turned sour.
Hawaii opened the second half on a 25-8 binge, disheartening the visiting team that at one point went five and a half minutes without a made basket.
A Gomis and-one coming out of the under eight media timeout broke the terrible stretch, initating a Beaver rally that very well could have won them the game if they hadn't managed to fall behind by 19. Barton dropped in his third triple of the morning on the next trip down the floor, pulling Oregon State to within 13 with 6:50 left. The team also responded to a 4-0 Warrior mini run that followed, scoring ten straight points to make the score 69-62 with 2:05 remaining.
Robinson called for a trapping defense attempting to force a turnover on the next possession, but that ended up leaving guard Garrett Nevels wide open for a jumper, which the junior calmly knocked down to put the dagger into OSU's side. Senior Roberto Nelson added a free throw to cut the deficit to eight with 1:50 left on the clock, but once again the Beaver defense failed, leaving Keith Shamburger all alone to knock down a three to put Hawaii up 11.
The two teams traded a pair of free throws on their next trips, and a Nelson jumper with 55 seconds left cut the deficit to nine. After Shamburger split a pair of free tosses to get the lead back to double digits, things got wacky.
Forward Devon Collier tipped in his own miss with 40 seconds left to make the score 77-69, but Nevels snuck behind the Beaver defense, caught the football throw inbounds pass, and promptly blew a layup.
Collier grabbed the board, threw a terrific outlet to Langston Morris-Walker, who drove to the hoop and was called for a charge, the worst call in a game filled with many.
Morris-Walker Called For The Charge (credit: Connor Pelton)
As you can see, Christian Standhardinger was still moving left to right when Morris-Walker started his shooting motion, which is a blocking foul under the new rules. For those that say the call didn't matter, the Beavers were down eight with 30 seconds left regardless, you are probably correct. But if the sophomore makes the first free throw to cut the deficit to seven, that opens up some options for the Beavers, one of which would be missing the second intentionally, which who knows, may have led to a four point possession to keep the Beavs alive and well, especially with the way the Rainbow Warriors were missing free throws down the stretch.
The call gave Hawaii the ball back and essentially ended the game, which concluded with an Olaf Schaftenaar layup to make the final 79-73.
Nelson led the Beavers with 24 points, although his performance during the second half drought came up well short of what's expected from one of the top players in the conference. Collier and Barton were the team's second leading scorers at 13 each.
The game was played in front of an announced attendance of 6,572, the majority of which were of course there to root on the home team. It was the fifth largest attendance number of the season for the Beavers, all five of which were played away from Gill Coliseum. The crowd was loud at times, but being played on Christmas morning, nothing was too hostile.
Oregon State's struggles against Hawaii continue, with the Rainbow Warriors now have taken four in a row. This is a good team that will compete for the Big West championship, but none the less, a team the Beavers should have beaten.
Next up is a visit from Quinnipiac in Corvallis on Sunday at 8:00 PM. The Bobcats enter at 6-4 and have already played two conference games, splitting the pair against MAAC competition. Robinson hinted that we will see some lineup changes for the game, and this is certainly the time to try it out, as Pac-12 play is a mere eight days away. The game will be televised by the Pac-12 Networks.
"I might have to make 'severe lineup changes', and anyone is susceptible," Robinson said post-game."
Hawaii improved to 9-3 with the win, its second straight after topping Saint Mary's late on Monday.
As we look at the big picture, this one stings. Going into league play with four losses against this weak of a non-conference slate is not good at all, and if the Beavers have any chance of gaining an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament, they'll need to make it up with a couple upsets against Pac-12 opponents.
Things don't get any easier after the Quinnipiac contest, as Oregon State travels to Colorado and Utah to open the month of January. The Beavers will then return home to host the Bay Area schools on January 9 and 11.