Rathbone: Oregon State hoops needs to get healthy

Brian Rathbone, News/Sports Chief

The opportunity was there for another Stephen Thompson Jr.  to make a play in crunch time in the Moda Center. Trailing Long Beach State by three with seven seconds, the sophomore guard who has a knack for hitting big shots in big moments since he stepped on campus, went to the free throw line.

He hit the first, then unintentionally missed the second free throw, but was able to gather his own rebound. It looked like a similar script to last year when Thompson Jr. drained a game-winner in last year’s win over Washington, or knock down three free throws to steal a win against Utah.

Instead the short jumper that would’ve tied the game, which ultimately led to Oregon state falling 71-67 to Long Beach State. The loss was OSU’s fourth straight loss–all of which have been by less than four points.

“I think with more accuracy it would of gone straight in,” Thompson Jr. said. “I short armed it a little bit and it was short.”

Now, Long Beach State is better than their 3-10 record dictates. With losses to Kansas, Wichita State, North Carolina, Louisville and Pac-12’s UCLA and Washington, Long Beach State is the the best 49ers in the state of California, sorry Chip.

But will less than two weeks until OSU opens Pac-12 play against UCLA, it’s going to be a uphill climb if OSU wants to make a second straight NCAA tournament appearance.

First off, OSU needs to get healthy. Mainly, sophomore forward Tres Tinkle needs to get back on the court. Things could start to fall into place with the deep threat (Thompson Jr.,) a player that can control the paint (Eubanks,) and do-it-all player (Tres Tinkle)  .

Eubanks, is starting to become a force, scoring 13 of his team-high 17 points in the second half. But in the first half, LBSU double teamed Eubanks, making it difficult for him, and the entire OSU offense, to establish his offensive game.

“I was getting a little bit frustrated,” said Eubanks regarding the first half troubles. “…When I get double-teamed my main focus is to just get it out to shooters and they will knock down threes all night.”

Outside of freshman guard JaQuori McLaughlin’s four threes on the night and a clutch three ball in final minute of the game from freshman forward Ben Koné, OSU only made two threes the rest of the game.  

Thompson Jr. is starting to get his footing after missing time with left foot injury, despite tying Eubanks with 17 points, Thompson Jr. shot 31 percent from the field and 28 percent from behind the arc.

With Tres Tinkle, Eubanks and Thompson Jr. all in the fold, this is a different team. That will allow the young, emerging players, McLaughlin and Ben Koné to play off OSU’s big three, rather than shoulder a heavy load.

But even with Tinkle’s return, the team’s tournament hopes are on thin ice. Getting player’s back won’t simply fix the problem. They will need to improve their assist-to-turnover ratio, on Friday OSU had nine assists to 14 turnovers. They will need to make free throws. As a team, they started 5-of-5, then went 6-of-12 the rest of the game, while Long Beach State all 17 of their free throws in the second half.

“We’re not making plays,” Wayne Tinkle said. “We’ve had plenty of opportunities, as wounded as we are, we’ve got to have guys step up and make plays, and that’s what cost at least four of five losses.”

It’s going to come down to making plays. Late in the year, OSU (mainly Thompson) found ways to make plays,  

They are going to need to start soon.

 

On Twitter @brathbone3