It became clear as the clock ticked down that we were seeing Stephen Thompson Jr’s last game with the Beavers last Thursday. Unless the NIT was generous, the Beavers’ season would be ending in a first round Pac-12 Tournament loss to Colorado. It wasn’t an especially notable night for Stevie. 10 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists. A block and a steal. 0-5 from beyond the three point line. Not an awful performance, but not the end of the career that he or Oregon State fans were hoping for.
You rarely earn the exclamation point to a great career, but Thompson provided a lot of moments to remember.
Stephen Thompson Jr. struck like a lightning bolt in his first game with the Beavers. 4 three pointers in his first game, against Northwest Christian, for a total of 12 points. That set a tone for Stevie’s first season; he was a deadly threat Oregon State could bring off the bench for perimeter scoring.
Thompson grabbed national attention after a bizarre end to a game against Utah on February 5th, 2016. Oregon State led by 2 with 13 seconds left in the game, but fouled Utah’s Jordan Loveridge while he was making a three point attempt. Loveridge made all three, and with 2.2 seconds left, it looked like the Beavers were sunk.
Then, inscrutable, bizarrely, Utah fouled Stevie while he was making a desperate half court shot. Thompson was at the foul strip, with the game on the line, and he was perfect. Three for three to give the Beavers a win.
That win kept the Beavers hopes for the postseason alive, as they were in the hunt for an NCAA Tournament berth for the first time in over 20 years. The Beavers would need Thompson’s help again when they took on the Huskies later that month.
Down 81-79 with 3.3 seconds left in the game, Stevie went the full court to hit one of the most important shots in the last 10 years of OSU basketball.
A strong finish to the season sent the Beavers to their first NCAA Tournament in 20 years.
The next season, Stevie was promoted to a full time starter. While the team as a whole took a massive step back, Thompson soared. In the 26 games he played (and started) in, Thompson hit double digits 23 times. He broke 20 in 7 games, and in a loss at Utah he hit 30 points for the first time in his career.
Stevie delivered the crowning moment of that terrible season in the rematch against Utah in Corvallis. Utah had taken control of the game in the second half, and was up by 13 with less than 10 minutes to go. Thompson led the Beavers on a furious comeback, and got the game tied up 64-64 with 30 seconds to go.
It looked like another loss was on the way when Kyle Kuzma hit a three pointer to put the Utes up, but Stevie wasn’t done. He hit a layup to get within one, and then when Utah turned the ball over on the next possession, Thompson hit an amazing scoop shot to give the Beavers the win, there only conference win of the season.
He scored 31 points in that game, his second 30 point game of the season (and second against Utah). At the time, it was his career high.
In his Junior season, Thompson ensured he would live on forever in the nightmares of Washington fans.
In their February 10th matchup in Corvallis, the Beavers once again found themselves trailing by double digits in the second half. Tres Tinkle led an Oregon State comeback, and tied the game up right before time ended in regulation. In the first OT period, Stevie missed a pair of free throws that could’ve ended the game, but made up for that error in the second OT.
The Beavers had the lead in the final minute, but a Washington three followed by a free throw tied things at 94. With 11 seconds to go in OT, Stevie brought the ball up the court, made some space for himself, and sank a three with a tenth of a second left on the clock to gives OSU the win.
While the Beavers goal of getting back to the postseason was all for naught this year, the team still provided some amazing moments. The highlight from Stevie’s final season for me was on January 10th of this year, when the Beavers took on USC at Gill Coliseum.
The Beavers were without Tres Tinkle, so were relying on Thompson to be the team’s primary scorer. He delivered, with the biggest game of his career. 34 points, including 5 threes, 10 rebounds and 5 assists. That 34 was his career high.
The Beavers needed all of it, as USC rebounded from being down at halftime to send the game to overtime. Ethan Thompson gave the Beavers the lead with a minute to go, but Stevie sealed the win, going 3-4 from the foul line in the last 20 seconds of the game.
That’s only a handful of the major moments of Stephen Thompson Jr.’s time at Oregon State. What were your favorite moments? Sound off in the comments.