OSU men’s basketball team beats UCLA to enhance NCAA Tournament prospects
Oregon State nearly threw it all away on Saturday against UCLA: its second road win of the season, a chance to end 9-9 in the Pac-12 and most importantly a critical piece for its NCAA Tournament resume.
The Beavers’ 16-point lead with 5:31 to play was cut to as little as one, and the Bruins had one last possession while down two points and time ticking down.
OSU freshman guard Derrick Bruce was credited with the steal, but senior guard Gary Payton II helped force it and Payton II’s windmill dunk as time expired capped the Beavers’ statement win to finish the regular season. The 86-82 victory was the first time OSU won in Pauley Pavilion since 2003.
The Beavers are tied for sixth place in the Pac-12 standings at the regular season’s close with fellow 9-9 teams USC and Washington; the tiebreaker is how those three teams fared against the No. 1 team in the conference. That team is Oregon, and OSU is the only 9-9 team that beat the Ducks this year. So, OSU will be the No. 6 seed and face No. 11 Arizona State in the Pac-12 Tournament that starts Wednesday in Las Vegas.
Two individual career highs provided OSU (18-11, 9-9 Pac-12) a huge boost to NCAA Tournament hopes on Saturday. Freshman guard Stephen Thompson, Jr. starting in place of injured freshman forward Tres Tinkle and missed his first eight shots of the game but scored all 23 of his points in the second half. He had never scored more than 18 points in an entire game before. Senior forward Olaf Schaftenaar made a career-high five 3-pointers and scored OSU’s first nine points of the game on a trio of shots from beyond the arc. Thompson, Jr. and Schaftenaar combined to go 9-for-14 from 3-point range.
Behind Thompson Jr.’s game-high 23 points, Schaftenaar and Payton II added 17 points and Bruce tied his career high with 11. Senior forward Drew Eubanks chipped in six points and 10 rebounds.
OSU used a flurry of baskets from Thompson, Jr. and Schaftenaar to go up 68-52 with 5:31 left. OSU only attempted four more shots the rest of the game, including Payton II’s dunk with 0.8 seconds left, while UCLA had 20 attempts. The Beavers went 11-for-17 from the free throw line in the final five minutes to keep the door open for the Bruins, who made six 3-pointers in that span including three in the final minute.
OSU ended up on top, though, pushing OSU towards a likely NCAA Tournament berth for the first time since 1990.
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