TEMPE, AZ - Things couldn't have started better for the Oregon State Beavers.
The night began with a textbook baseline drive by Tres Tinkle, who then promptly fed forward Drew Eubanks for a one-handed slam dunk.
Unfortunately for the Beavers (12-7, 3-5 Pac-12), that would be their lone lead in what turned out to be an excruciating 40 minutes of basketball. A poor shooting night, combined with a lackadaisical effort on the defensive end of the floor, paved the way for an 86-68 loss against the Arizona State Sun Devils - the team's most lopsided defeat of the season.
"Give them credit," said head coach Wayne Tinkle after the game. "They put our guys back on our heels offensively, but what was even more disappointing than that was our lack of effort on defense."
No one struggled more in this one than point guard Gary Payton II. Arizona State held the senior to just two points - his lowest output since going scoreless at Quinnipiac on December 21, 2014.
The Sun Devils (12-9, 2-6) jumped out to an early 12-5 lead at the first media timeout and never looked back. That advantage was doubled four minutes later, and the score was 36-17 by the time the halftime buzzer mercifully sounded.
"It's really tough," said Tinkle when asked about the challenge of playing from behind. "Even more so on the road. They kept hitting some really big shots to break our backs."
Oregon State shot at just a 19.2% clip from the field in the first half. That did not deter the team from shooting the ball from outside though, even when some high-percentage looks were available closer to the basket.
The Beavers were able to pull within 18 with 17 minutes still to play, but a quick answer on the other end by guard Gerry Blakes pushed the ASU lead up to 21.
With their hot shooting carrying over into the second half, the maroon and gold lead ballooned to as many as 25 before the night was over. The visitors never had a real look at making a comeback, and Tinkle decided to pull the majority of his starters with three minutes remaining.
"We felt like we played well enough to put ourselves in a position where our opponent didn't have a sniff at getting back in the game," said Arizona State head coach Bobby Hurley. "We were able to build on our lead and forced Oregon State to keep chasing us."
The Sun Devils were able to break their three-game losing streak with the 86-68 win.The Beavers, meanwhile, have now lost four of their last five games - not a great stretch for a team trying to get on the right side of the NCAA Tournament bubble. And they have now lost on 16 out of their last 17 visits to Tempe.
Luckily for Tinkle and company, help is on the way in the form of suspended forward Jarmal Reid. The OSU head coach expects Reid back next Thursday against Utah, capping his leave at what will be four games.
"We miss him," Tinkle said. "He's a backup four man, much like some of the four men they have here. He is probably our most physical post player, and he should be back when we return home."
Before that return to Corvallis comes another tough road game. The Beavers will battle No. 18 Arizona on Saturday night in Tucson, with tipoff scheduled for 6:30 PM (PT). The contest will be televised by the Pac-12 Networks.