Gary Payton II keeps Golden Bears at bay

On a night where many eyes were fixated on prize freshman forward prospect Jaylen Brown, Gary Payton II demanded attention of his own. The Beavers defeated the California Golden Bears in a 77-71 win on Saturday evening behind Payton’s huge game and play-making from across the board. Payton finished the game with 20 points, 11 rebounds, eight assists and four steals.

“We got back to what we did [in the win against UO,] be physical and be the ones to initiate the contact,” Payton II said.

The Beavers (11-3, 2-1) were in control for much of the game, holding a double-figure lead for a large portion of time, but a late dry-spell allowed Cal (12-5, 2-2) to claw their way back into the game. OSU was ultimately able to stave the Bears off, largely behind the Herculean efforts of Payton II and a clutch jumper from freshman forward Tres Tinkle.

With about 45 seconds remaining in the second half, Tinkle had the ball in his hands with the shot clock quickly winding down. As time expired, he heaved up 17-foot fade away jump shot from behind the backboard and it swished. The shot gave the Beavers a 76-71 lead and all but clinched the game.

“That’s a big time win, after our performance the other night, our guys really responded well,” said OSU head coach Wayne Tinkle, referencing the recent loss to Stanford. “They made big shot after big shot, but our guys responded and made big shots too when it counted.”

Free throws were also an important factor. After going 6-12 in the first half from the charity stripe, the Beavers rallied to hit 14-15 in the second half.

“I was proud of the free throws,” Tinkle said. “We will learn from some of our defensive miscues.”

Brown was all over the place for the Golden Bears on the evening, hitting threes, jumpers, dunking and rejecting Beaver shots chase-down style. Neil Olshey, the General Manager of the Portland Trail Blazers, and a host of other NBA scouts were in attendance and were not likely to be disappointed by the show, as Brown finished with 20 points, seven rebounds and two blocks on eight of 13 shooting.

Drew Eubanks was the unfortunate recipient of one of his vicious attacks on the basket in the second half, trying his best to stop Brown only to get dunked on. It was a frustrating night for Eubanks, who fell into foul trouble early in the evening, but it proved to be no problem as the Beavers were gifted with some key reserve minutes from backup big men Jarmal Reid, Daniel Gomis and Chiekh N’Diaye.

The trio each provided solid defense, especially on Cal’s other heralded freshman forward Ivan Rabb. Rabb only finished with 10 points in 37 minutes, six of which came from the free throw line.

“They have some very talented freshmen,” said freshman Stephen Thompson Jr. “We also have some very talented freshmen.”

Reid and N’Diaye provided a little late-game crowd boost when Reid found N’Diaye open for an open lay-up into the basket with a nifty pass. The play brought Gill to a deafening roar as the generally defensive-minded players showed a little zest on offense.

“That’s the strength of our team, we have depth,” Tinkle said. “When the crowd gets into it, that’s good stuff.”

Stephen Thompson Jr. put on a show of his own, making big steals and making big shots. On the night, Thompson Jr. delivered a shot-clock buzzer beater, a clutch desperation fade-away three to extend the Beavers and a timely steal to set up a Tres Tinkle transition dunk. When the Beavers most needed it, Thompson Jr. made plays.

“It was entertaining for me, because our guys were laying it on the line,” Tinkle said. “That’s what we have got to do everyday in practice.”

The win puts OSU back above .500 in conference play as they prepare to take on Colorado on the road next Wednesday, Jan. 13.

“We’ll set a game plan, we’ll head out on the road Tuesday and get ready to play,” Tinkle said. “This is our first road game, so let’s go set the tone on the road.”

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