HOOPS: Beavs run out of steam

STARKS, MORELAND, REID, SCHAFTENAAR

CORVALLIS - Oregon State fell to visiting Washington State by a score of 71-68 on Saturday in a heated contest that left those at Gill Coliseum holding their breath down until the final buzzer. The first half of Saturday's game was the most efficient 20 minutes OSU has put together since they began conference play…

And when the Beavs found their groove from beyond the arc, it threatened to blow the game wide open and kept Ol' Mo in the orange corner during the first half. The Beavs hit pay dirt on 5-of-12 three point attempts, and mustered 13 boards and nine assists as a collective in the first half. Roberto Nelson cashed in on a beauty of a three pointer as the final second trickled off the clock, and the Beavs went into the locker room up 33-29 over the visiting Cougars.

Sure, they committed five personal fouls in the first six minutes, and sure, the fact that Ahmad Starks and Nelson spent more time in the paint on defense than they did on the perimeter may have been cause for concern.

But that wasn't nearly as bad as all the personal fouls -- OSU ended the night with 21. From this chair, a few too many of those were questionable – those "touch" fouls that drive everyone nuts courtesy of the officiating crew. Craig Robinson voiced his disagreement with the officials on one of those calls, and he drew a technical foul for it. WSU was whistled for 14 fouls, seven less than the Beavs.

At any rate, you can't blame the fouls for the loss. It was all about strategy for Robinson's boys, and the executing of said. And depth.

The offensive focus was on frequent ball movement that catered to the hot hands of Nelson and Starks. Defensively, Oregon State kicked it into high gear early, instituting a full court press early in the first half essentially acting like Gorilla Glue, which made it difficult for Washington State to move the ball efficiently under the net. The Cougars were forced to consolidate much of their offense to passes and shot attempts from beyond the three point marker.

An ideal scenario, seeing as how Washington State only connected on one of nine three point attempts during the first half while shooting 42.3 percent from the field. They couldn't buy momentum.

But then the second half happened.

WSU and Oregon State are pretty evenly matched on the tree bark, unless you are taking depth into consideration. And depth plagued the Beavs over the final 20 minutes. They had some hustle, but not the same fire that they entered the game with – such has been the prevailing theme of Oregon State's season. No point in beating a dead horse.

You could see it in the players' faces and demeanor when they met with the press after the game. They were just plain zonked at the end of a contest.

The bench came up big at times – Olaf Schaftenaar and Langston Morris-Walker did what they could to give guys like Nelson, Starks and Devon Collier (14 points, two boards, no assists) a breather and even picked up some buckets in the process. Morris-Walker proved especially effective against the loose pressure of Washington State, hitting on 3-4 from beyond the arc. But decent play from the bench guys only went so far to help the Beavs, as fatigue hit them hard with about 10 minutes to go in the second half.

OSU picked up 27 rebounds to WSU's 39 – the Beavers missed out on some clutch second chance opportunities, and only scraped together five offensive rebounds during Saturdays match. WSU benefitted greatly from OSU's committing fouls, hitting on 14-18 free throws In the end, you see that Starks played for all but two minutes of the game, Nelson went hard for 26 minutes and only sat down when he started getting into foul trouble and Eric Moreland actually fouled out after playing over 30 minutes.

The final play of the game was a sweet look at three for Starks -- it would have tied the game and sent the teams into overtime. Yet his shot was wide left, it missed everything. A foul that wasn't called? Fatigue? Truly a heartbreaker in Corvallis.

The Beavs (11-9, 1-6) and face a tough Cal squad at Gill next week. The starters will need to get some rest. Or maybe some of the OSU depth to come on strong.

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