Youth and Years: Offensive Depth

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Josh Worden, Senior Beat Reporter

OSU’s multifaceted attack of young and old defeats Cal

Oregon State found an offensive attack in Saturday’s 77-71 win over California perfectly suited for the team’s strengths.

There was depth, with 10 different players scoring and 42 bench points to Cal’s eight. There was explosiveness, with three players above 10 points. And there was Gary Payton II, who had 20 points, 11 rebounds, eight assists and four steals.

“One guy after the other kept making plays for us, and that really gets us to feel good about what we’re doing,” said head coach Wayne Tinkle.

Tinkle pointed out the freshmen in particular: OSU’s rookies were up for the task against California’s freshmen duo of star recruits in Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb. The No. 1 and No. 5 prospects of their class, respectively, combined for 30 points, but OSU’s Stephen Thompson, Jr. and Tres Tinkle had 26 of their own and Drew Eubanks added five more.

“We’ve got a ways to go, but the neat thing is when their guys stepped up and made big plays, our younger guys and veteran guys didn’t fall apart,” Tinkle said.

He couldn’t have hit the nail more squarely on the head: after OSU’s 14-point lead evaporated to as little as two, multiple players stepped up in the final five minutes. Thompson, Jr. buried a step-back 3-pointer, Tinkle sunk a miraculous almost-over-the-backboard jumper and Payton II’s and-one with 30 seconds left put the game on ice.

Did OSU’s freshmen outplay Cal’s first-year players? Thompson, Jr. was understandably noncommittal — “both groups of freshmen played really well,” he said — but its a debatable point. Rabb was quiet, going just 2-for-4 from the field, while Brown’s 20 points was marred by his 2-for-8 effort from the free throw line.

OSU’s freshmen didn’t just contribute offensively: including Gligorije Rakocevic, they totaled seven rebounds and four steals. Other players chipped in some key buckets, like Jarmal Reid’s eight points, Olaf Schaftenaar’s five and Daniel Gomis and Cheikh N’Diaye’s four.

“We had great contributions, even a couple of guys who didn’t score for us,” coach Tinkle said. “Some of our vets were instrumental in helping us get organized in our offense, or defending the way we’re supposed to defend… even the guys that didn’t play. Their energy on the bench: it’s reminding us more and more of last year’s bench.”

Even more surprising is the players who didn’t play much on Saturday but could make an impact in upcoming games and have done so earlier in the season. Coach Tinkle mentioned freshman guard Derrick Bruce without prompting; Bruce did not play against Cal but has been a reliable backup point guard this year. Gomis and Reid are also gaining momentum after early-season injuries and both figure to factor largely into OSU’s success as the season progresses.

“That’s the strength of our team, we have depth,” coach Tinkle said. “Be ready and stay positive, because we’ll call on you next time and you’ll make the same contributions the other guys did the night before.”

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