It was arguably the oddest wire to wire win Oregon State has ever had, but in the end, it was still a 75-66 win over Arizona State in the concluding game of the first day of the Pac-12 Tournament in the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas.
Playing again without Tres Tinkle, their second leading scorer, who is out with a foot injury, and with Coach Wayne Tinkle ill and running a triple digit temperature, getting only 3 first half points from Tinkle's replacement Stephen Thompson Jr in the first half, which was 3 more than Gary Payton II would put up, and Drew Eubanks for that matter, was hardly the formula for early success for the sixth seed Beavers against the 11th seed Sun Devils.
Likely leaning on Malcolm Duvivier, with major scoring assists from Jarmal Reid and Gligorije Rakocevic, to open a double digit lead coming out of the under 12 minute media timeout on a Reid basket probably wasn't exactly as W. Tinkle had drawn it up, had he been present pregame (he wasn't, coming to the arena just in time for the game, after falling ill this afternoon).
But two things the Beavers did do were straight out of W. Tinkle's season of preparation. Oregon State sank 3 3 pointers, by 3 different players, to jump out to a 9-2 lead, and stifling defense that made Arizona State pay for a poor offensive effort produced a 9 point, 32-23 lead at halftime.
Oregon State struggled severely offensively as well, shooting only 33%, and just 27% on 3s in the first half, but Arizona didn't break into double digits until more than halfway through the opening half, and wound up shooting only 27%, and 9% from 3 point range.
"We got off to a good start," W. Tinkle felt. "They made a good adjustment, but we made some shots at the end."
Foul trouble kept both Thompson and Eubanks on the bench for extensive minutes in the first half, and that opened the door for Rakocevic, below, to have a career high 6 points and a season high equaling 5 rebounds in the early going, which was a critical boost for the Beavers.
None of the day's earlier games had been competitive at all with all 3 ending in blowout wins for the higher seeds that were effectively over in the first half, and though Arizona State avoided that fate, it didn't look like that would be the case early in the second half.
When Eubanks finally became the 8th Beaver to score almost 3 minutes into the second half, it opened a 12 point lead, Oregon State's largest to that point.
A minute later, while the Pac-12 Network was interviewing Gary Payton, GP II finally scored his first points, fittingly with a windmill dunk off of a forced turnover.
And it was Payton that opened the lead to 15, with a basket that opened the lead to 48-33.
But it was unlikely contributions by Cheikh N'diaye and Reid that opened the 16 point advantages that were the largest of the game.
Arizona State rallied back within 9 on a 3 pointer by Gary Blakes with 2 1/2 minutes left, and even got within 7 as a result of Tra Holder putting up 7 of his 10 points in the last 2 minutes of the game. But Oregon State sank 8 of 10 free throws down the stretch to seal the deal.
The win earned the Beavers a shot late tomorrow night (tip time on FS 1 is set for 8:45 PM at the earliest) against 3 seed California.
"We know the recipe to beat them," Payton said, noting that "we split with them this season."
More importantly, the win, which improved Oregon State to 19-11, and pushed their RPI back under 30, may have put the Beavers into the NCAA Tournament. It would be their first trip in 26 years, should that eventuate on Selection Sunday.
"It's a win, so we will take it," W. Tinkle said, "but we didn't finish well. But the guys didn't worry about who'se injured, this, that, or the other thing; they just took care of business."
Oregon State has now won 4 of their last 5 games.
Payton eventually got to double digits, with 10 points, but also had a game high 9 rebounds, 2 assists, and 4 big steals.
Thompson bounced back from making only the first basket of the game to get lead the Beavers, with 13 points, and Duvivier added 12, many of which served to carry Oregon State at key points.
Reid also finished in double digits, with 10 points, and Derick Bruce just missed, finishing with 9 for the Beavers.
Blakes led Arizona State, with a game high 20 points, and Savon Goodman also had a decent game for the Sun Devils, coming off the bench for 14 points. But besides Holder, the only other playing double digits for Arizona State was Eric Jacobsen, and he was held to just 11 points. The Sun Devils wound up shooting only 36%, and only improved to 28% from 3 point range against the Oregon State defense.
Meanwhile the Beavers managed to shoot only 41%, a number that will have to improve to beat the Bears tomorrow, and they only made 4 of 19 3 pointers after sinking their first 3. Arizona State also surprisingly out-rebounded Oregon state 39 to 37.
But in the end, it was really the effort of the Beaver defense that avenged an 86-68 loss in the teams' only other meeting of the season in Tempe, ended the Sun Devils' season at 15-17, and was why no 11 seed still has never won a Pac-12 Tournament game.
All season, style points matter, and there were next to no style points tonight. But this is the post season, and things change. You win, or you don't, and that's all that matters. Tonight, the Beavers won.