Thompson Jr. secures the victory and saves the day

By Joshua Lucas Daily Barometer
Steven Thompson Jr.

Michael Kiever Sports Reporter

Freshman guard Thompson Jr. once again played the role of late-game hero, lifting the Beavers to an 82-81 win on a buzzer-beating three-pointer.

It was the shot of the season.

Freshman guard and resident cold-blooded assassin Stephen Thompson Jr. nailed a three-pointer as time expired to give the Beavers an 82-81 over Washington in a Wednesday night thriller, finishing with 18 points on 5-11 shooting. It was a shot of utmost difficulty, one that caused the student section to rush the court and will likely be played over and over on SportsCenter.

His feelings?

“I’ve got homework tonight,” Thompson Jr. remarked as he left the post-game press conference.

His casual demeanor following the big-time finish cannot be blamed. After all, it was a pretty familiar scene for Thompson Jr.

He played a key late-game role in each of OSU’s (16-10, 7-8) last two home wins, including the time when he hit game-winning free throws against Utah on Feb. 4. The stakes may have been a bit higher this time around, but according to Thompson Jr., there is no such thing as too much late-game experience.

“It gave me a little more confidence,” Thompson Jr. said of his previous late-game success this season. “We’ve been in that situation before, just knowing you have to make a play in that last second.”

After one completed free throw from UW senior guard Andrew Andrews, the Beavers were down two points and only 3.1 seconds remaining. Needless to say, there was little time to operate for OSU. For OSU head coach Wayne Tinkle, however, that was all the time in the world. 

“We said three seconds was an eternity,” Coach Tinkle said, referring to the brief talk he had with the team while the referees confirmed whether it was OSU ball or not. “If we caught it deep enough, we could get to the three-point line on the other end of the court. (Thompson Jr.) showed great patience and balance, and knocked down a big one for us.”

Following in line with the string of home thrillers, the contest on Wednesday night seemed to have the consistency of a swinging pendulum. Just when momentum swung one way, there it went, swinging back in the opposite direction.

After holding a lead for much of the game, the Beavers found themselves in a six-point hole with 1:48 remaining. Missed free throws was largely how they got there, missing 15-24 attempts from the charity stripe in the second half, especially in critical moments.

With the game tied at 72-72, senior guard Gary Payton II missed two free throws. The Huskies seized the opportunity, riding leading scorer Andrew Andrews to the finish. 

OSU crawled back with solid defense, freshman forward Tres Tinkle and a bit of luck. Tres Tinkle scored four of his 16 points in the final 22 seconds leading up to Thompson Jr.’s big shot, while UW (16-12, 8-8) made no field goals and only made 2-4 free throws down the stretch. The rest is history. 

“I was watching the whole thing,” Payton II said of the fateful last shot. “It was automatic. When (Thompson Jr.) puts it up, there’s a pretty high chance it’s going in.”

Freshman center Drew Eubanks turned in a surprise performance in what was arguably his best performance of Pac-12 conference play. Eubanks scored 13 of his 17 points in the first half and nabbed a career-high 13 rebounds, registering the first double-double of his collegiate career.

“How about Eubanks getting 17 and 13 against the most athletic frontline in our league,” coach Tinkle said.

Eubanks’ energy and aggressiveness helped combat the UW barrage of threes in the first half, when they drained 8-14 attempts from beyond the arc. The Beavers turned in a 49-45 lead going into halftime with the vow that they would improve. 

“We told the guys that we were one of the best teams in the league in three-point field goal percentage,” coach Tinkle said of the halftime pep talk. “We gave them too many wide-open looks in the first half. We just said tighten it up.”

The Beavers successfully stopped the leakage after halftime, allowing the Huskies to shoot only 3-10 from three from that point on. UW senior guard (and Portland native) Andrew Andrews was the main source of trouble for OSU, scoring 30 points on 9-14 shooting, including six three-pointers.

The win will likely boost the Beavers NCAA tournament chances, and big victories perpetuate confidence. 

“I think everybody is starting to understand and starting to believe,” Payton II said. “That’s what we’ve been getting at all year—just believe and buy-in to what we’re doing, and it will work out in the end.”

After roaring with delight on Wednesday night, Gill Coliseum will sit silent and empty until this Sunday when the Beavers host Washington State. The Cougars were burned for their 14th straight loss on Wednesday, suffering a 76-62 loss at the hands of Oregon.

Until then, Thompson Jr. will be finishing up his homework and celebrating—on the inside, at least. 

“I try not to get too up, get too down,” Thompson Jr. said. “But trust me, I’m really excited. I just try to keep it on the inside.”

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