After finishing last season with 19 wins and an appearance in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 26 years, the Oregon State Beavers entered the 2016-17 season looking to build on last year’s success and to earn some respect for their efforts. Instead, all they got were questions as to how they would replace last year’s leader, Gary Payton, II who is now playing in the NBA D-League, and a prediction that they would finish near the bottom of the pack, in the Pac-12. Two games into the season, however, the Beavers are responding strongly to both of these issues.
At 2-0 on the young season, the Beavers are currently tied for first place and they have shown an aggressive style of play that could keep them battling for a top position in the conference and an NCAA tournament berth all season. In their first two games, victories over Prairie View and UTSA, they have gotten to the foul line with regularity, attempting 86 free throws. They have hit 60 of them, putting them at 70 percent from the line as a team. Along with attacking the basket, the Beavers have proven to be a resilient bunch, using a 17-2 run to pull away from Prairie View in the first half of that victory and an 11-2 run to overcome a halftime deficit against UTSA and never trailed again.
Despite the early season success, there is no doubting that it appeared to be an uphill climb to replace Payton and what he brought to the team last season (16 points, 7.8 rebounds, 5 assists and 2.5 steals per game), but the Beavers seem to have done just that. While Payton was leading Oregon State to a place they hadn’t been since the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope, Freshman Tres Tinkle was sitting out the final five games of the season with a foot injury, wondering what could’ve been. Now fully healthy and ready to roll, the son of Beavers’ Head Coach Wayne Tinkle, is building on his solid freshman year and filling the void left by Payton’s departure.
Tinkle, one of the elder statesmen on a young team, used his time away from the game to improve his outside shot and ball handling, while also getting a better feel for the mental part of the game as he watched his teammates on the court. All of it paid off and he has led the way so far with 23 points, 13.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2 steals per game. All are above his averages from a year ago and in line, or even slightly better than what Payton brought to the team last season.
While there is still a lot of basketball left to be played this season, the early returns are promising for the Beavers. So maybe they didn’t come into the season as a major player, but If Tinkle can stay healthy and the team can continue an aggressive style of play, achieving some big thing wouldn’t be out of the question. Then, perhaps, the Lady Beavers won’t be the only ranked basketball team at the school.