Oregon State capped what has been a pretty good 24 hours to be a Beaver with a special Senior Day celebration, and a 20 point, 69-49 win over Washington State.
20 was a special number, as Oregon State temporarily un-retired jersey number 20, and Gary Payton II left his father Gary Payton speechless (a very rare circumstance!) by donning the number for his final game at Gill.
"I wanted to do something special for him, and for the program and community," GP II explained.
It thrilled the sellout crowd that was the largest of the season (the only other sellout, against Oregon, wasn't close to a full house due to inclement weather) that was already rocking in full celebration mode after the wrestling team took their 5th Pac-12 title in a row last night, the baseball team completed a sweep of the state of Kansas this morning, and the women's basketball team claimed their second consecutive conference title, and the #1 seed in next week's conference tournament in Seattle.
After all of that, the men's team, fresh off their 82-81 win over Washington Wednesday night, did a great job of not only keeping the party rolling, they stepped up the fun.
After the Cougars opened a couple of initial 2 point leads, the Beavers went on an 18-2 tear that featured 4 GP II baskets, including yet another in his long line of highlight reel dunks to take a 20-6 lead, and control of the game.
Washington State fought back after falling behind by 15 a couple times, with the last 5 points of the first half, making it 35-25 at the break, and then closing to within 7 on Charles Callison's 3 to start the second half.
But GP II, above, answered, and then Olaf Schaftenaar wrapped a pair of 3 pointers around a Drew Eubanks blocked shot, more than doubling the difference.
Oregon State followed up the 8-0 run with another 10-0 run after Ike Iroegbu's basket to go up 53-30. The 23 point lead with 12 1/2 minutes left held up pretty well, and Washington State couldn't get closer than 18 through the better portion of the second half, and back to back baskets by Eubanks, below, reopened the advantage to 21, 66-45 at the under 4 minute media timeout.
Josh Hawkinson got back to back baskets for the Cougars on his way to a game high 14 points, but Oregon State coach Wayne Tinkle was focused on other matters.
The large lead allowed Tinkle to take time out with 2:23 to reinsert the 5 scholarship seniors, Payton, Schaftenaar, Langston Morris-Walker, Jarmal Reed, and even Daniel Gomis, who was thought to be done for his injury riddled career after suffering a stress fracture a half dozen games ago.
Gomis got the last field goal of the game, to a thunderous response by Beaver Nation, on an assist from Morris-Walker.
"That was the highlight of the game to me," said Morris-Walker. "The sole mission was to get Daniel a basket or a block and I'm glad I was the one to get it to him."
Washington State coach Ernie Kent, seeing the handwriting and the score on the wall, used his final timeout, and that allowed W. Tinkle to take the 5 seniors out to a standing ovation, and get the 2 walkons, including the 6th senior, Jamie Stangel, onto the floor.
The other walkon, Matt Dahlen made the last point to make it a 20 point win, producing one last roar from the crowd of 9,604.
"It was special to see everyone turn out, and the team responded," Coach Tinkle said. "It was great ot be able to do that (at the end for the seniors), and credit to all the guys for putting us in position to do that. And thanks to Coach Kent."
It was a balanced effort by the Beavers. GP II had 13 points, but also 7 rebounds, 8 assists, and 2 steals. Eubanks also finished with 13 points, and a co-game high (with Hawkinson) 9 rebounds. Tres Tinkle also tossed in 13, and had 6 rebounds and 2 steals. Schaftenaar was also in double figures, with 11 points on 3 made 3s, and added 5 assists. Morris-Walker just missed double digits, with 8 points, and added 4 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals.
Callison was the only Coug in double digits besides Hawkinson, with 13 points.
Oregon State improved to 17-10, for their second consecutive season of at least 17 wins for the first time since 1989 & 1990. The Beavers evened their Pac-12 record at 8-8 as they head to LA next weekend, where a splitagainst the Trojans and Bruins might cap the #1 toughest schedule in the country with an NCAA Tournament bid that would end the longest drought in Division I among teams that have ever been there (sorry, Northwestern, the only team to have never made an NCAA postseason at any level).
Washington State on the other hand, will limp into a season closing Apple Cup against Washington with a 9-20 record, a 1-16 Pac-12 mark, and a 15 game losing streak that is the longest one the Cougars have suffered since the 1999-2000 season.
Postgame, the remnants of the crowd welcomed home the conference champion wrestling team as they got back from Tempe, and Beaver Nation is invited to come back by the basketball practice facility around 8:15, when the celebration will continue when the women's basketball team gets back from the Bay Area.
Cue the Fight Song!
Images by USA Today via SBN and Andy Wooldridge)