Foul on a half court heave saves Beavers

Michael Kiever, Sports Reporter

Thompson Jr. fouled on half court shot at buzzer, hits free throws to win game

Thursday night was a tale of two mind-numbing fouls for both the Beavers and the Utes. 

 Fortunately, it was the Oregon State men’s basketball team who had the last laugh. 

With two seconds remaining, Utah sunk three free throws off of a Jarmal Reid foul on a Jordan Loveridge three-point attempt that gave the Utes a 69-68 lead. It seemed like it was all but over, with no timeouts and little time on the clock left for OSU to formulate a play. 

It was, however, just enough time for freshman guard Stephen Thompson Jr. to heave a desperate shot attempt from half court. The shot was wildly inaccurate, but Thompson Jr. was inexplicably fouled on the play. Hardly believing his own luck, Thompson Jr. sank all three of his free throws to give OSU an improbable 71-69 win.

“I knew since there was a foul on the three before that, the refs were looking for contact on three-point shots,” Thompson Jr. said. “I saw that the defender had jumped before I took off to shoot, and I tried to get as much contest as I could.”

“Not the first two,” said senior guard Gary Payton II when asked if he watched Thompson Jr.’s free throws. “I just let the fans tell me what was going on.”

The ending of the game was not the only shining moment for Thompson Jr. Trailing by eight points with seven minutes remaining, Thompson Jr. scored a three pointer and a floater on back-to-back possessions to cut the Utah lead to three points. Thompson Jr. may have gone scoreless in the first half, but that did not keep him from firing away, scoring all 13 of his points in the second half to lead the Beavers on to victory.

“Ice water in the veins here,” said OSU head coach Wayne Tinkle, pointing to Thompson Jr. who was sitting next to him at the press conference podium.

Senior forward Jarmal Reid made his first appearance since playing Utah on Jan. 17, returning from his four-game suspension after appearing to intentionally trip a referee. Reid played a key role in helping the Beavers make a comeback, finishing with eight points in 16 reserve minutes while also providing solid interior defense (give or take one play.)

“The team picked him up, and that’s what it’s all about,” coach Tinkle said. “When one guy is down, let’s everybody pick him up. Tonight, the guys did that.”

Initially, it appeared as though Utah would run away with it when Gary Payton II ran into early foul trouble. Utah’s sophomore forward Jakob Poeltl took over in his absence, finishing with 20 points and nine rebounds on 8 of 11 shooting from the field and consistently burning whatever defender the Beavers chose to put on him. Payton II also finished with 20 points, leading the Beavers in scoring once again and also dishing out seven assists and grabbing six rebounds.

Soon enough, however, Poeltl would run into his own bout with foul trouble, forcing the Utes to sit him long enough to let the Beavers force their way back in.

OSU will now prepare to take on Colorado at home on Saturday, Feb. 6. March Madness chances for the Beavers are still looking extremely slim, but Thursday’s win has proven that this team may have what it takes to overcome even the most insurmountable odds.

On Twitter @michaelkievaaa

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