Beavers pull off the upset over No. 21 USC

Freshman guard Stephen Thompson Jr. scored 11 points in 20 minutes off the bench in the Beavers 85-70 victory over USC.

Josh Worden, Senior Beat Reporter

Poor shooting from behind the arc doesn’t stop the Beavers

 

Sometimes it’s been staunch defense or limiting turnovers, other times the tempo or rebounding has been key.

The Oregon State men’s basketball team has won 12 games this year — most recently an 85-70 victory Sunday over No. 21 USC — in different ways.

Against USC, the victory wasn’t about where OSU dominated, but actually where it didn’t — 3-point shooting.

The Beavers (12-6, 3-4 Pac-12) shot 3-for-18 from behind the arc, resulting in a season-low 16.7 percent rate. For a team that has made 50 percent or more of its 3-pointers in three different games this year, the Beavers were forced to find offense elsewhere — and did so.

Of the four players in double digit scoring for OSU, only one made a 3-point attempt. Senior guard Gary Payton II had 22 points while missing all three of his long range shots. He counteracted his 3-point misses by making 10 of his 14 attempts from inside the arc. Driving layups, hook shots, dunks or midrange jumpers: everything was falling for the Beavers — unless it came from outside the 3-point line.

Really, it wasn’t anything new for the Beavers. Sure, they’ve bumped their 3-point shooting up almost five percent from last year to 36.7 percent, but OSU has also been productive without success from downtown.

Take the California game, for example. Cal entered with one of the best interior defenses in the country, allowing just 37.7 percent of 2-point shots.

OSU didn’t budge from head coach Wayne Tinkle’s game plan of attacking the basket and attempted just seven 3-pointers, making three, in the 77-71 win.

The other similarity between OSU’s wins over Cal and USC is free throw shooting — the Beavers went 20-for-27 against Cal and 18-for-21 against USC.

So, the offensive formula for OSU isn’t really a rigid scheme at all. Maybe the 3-pointers won’t drop one night but free throws will be easy to come by, or fast break opportunities are slim but the posts find success in the paint.

In Sunday’s victory, the Beavers showed the versatility to adapt even when one part of the offense went quiet. Freshman guard Stephen Thompson, Jr. leads OSU with 26 shots from long range this year, but went 0-for-4 on Sunday. Still, he contributed with 11 points in 20 minutes and a 5-for-6 effort from the stripe. His game was a microcosm of OSU’s day as a whole — the 3-point shots rattled in and out but everything else came easy.

After the win, Tinkle pointed to many of those exact stats as catalysts for OSU’s victory, which snapped a three-game losing streak. From the free throw shooting to the 18 assists and plenty more, there was a lot to build on before the Beavers travel to Arizona this week.

“If we do those things consistently, we’re going to be okay and we’re going to build,” he said.

On Twitter @BrightTies