Nic Koprivica (AP Don Ryan)
Washington State (10-6, 2-2) traveled to Corvallis, OR for their first conference road victory of the season, downing Oregon State (6-9, 1-4) in overtime, 61-57.
This game featured two of the youngest coaches in the Pac-10. Coach Tony Bennett is in his third season for WSU. His counterpart for the Beavers is first year man, Coach Craig Robinson.
Young head coaches wasn't the only easy comparison.
Both the Cougs and the Beavers play very, very deliberate basketball. The television announcers were joking, "The first team to 40 points will win." They were right about the pace of the game, but wrong in their point prediction.
Coach Bennett continues to look for the best combination of players to start a game. For the first time this season, freshman DeAngelo Casto was tapped to start the game. Casto came out with his usual high energy.
However, the officials found his play too aggressive and slapped two quick fouls on the young man. That sentenced the freshman to spend the final 17 minutes of the first half on the bench.
After the Cougs scored the first five points, Coach Robinson implemented a zone and trap defense that had WSU completely confused on offense.
With Casto on the bench, Coach Bennett changed things up again. Bennett inserted Charlie Enquist to see how he could play against the talented, lanky big man for OSU, Roeland Schaftenaar. The experiment worked. Enquist responded with some quality minutes shutting down Schaftenaar, which also took the Beavers out of their offensive flow.
While Oregon State was having trouble making a basket, the Cougs were making just about everything they threw at the basket. Shooting a high percentage from the floor wasn't enough against the pesky play of OSU. Oregon State kept WSU from getting shots off by forcing 11 turnovers in the first half. Typically that would be a bad game for the Cougs. Turning the ball over that many times in the first half qualifies as a disaster.
On offense, neither team was even looking to shot the ball until there was less than 10 seconds left on the shot clock.
The score at halftime was 33-30 in favor of the home team, Oregon State. The Beavers took a lead at 7-5 and held on to it for 15 minutes until the Cougs caught up and passed them on a three-point shot by senior Taylor Rochestie to raise the score to 25-24.
Looking to gain an edge going into the second half, Coach Robinson's Beavers made a nice 10-4 run to begin the next 20 minutes of play.
Coach Bennett went back to his lineup that started the game to begin the second half. However, Casto had trouble hanging on to the basketball and quickly found himself watching the game from the bench.
After Oregon State earned their second nine-point lead of the game at 43-34, the experience of Rochestie and Baynes settled the Cougs down.
Slowly but surely, Coach Bennett's team was rewarded for staying with their strengths. They continued to run a patient offense and forced the OSU big man Schaftenaar to pick up his fourth foul with nearly seven minutes left in regulation.
The final seven minutes of regulation was a flurry of missed shots, missed passes, and missed opportunities to finish set plays by both teams.
Daven Harmeling made a three-point shot, his first since the Reagan administration was in power, with a little over a minute and a half to play. Momentum was with the Cougs. Fatigue was with the Beavers.
Coach Bennett's team had the ball with just seconds left. He set up a play coming out of time out that was identical to the one used to earn a victory over Stanford last Saturday. Give and go between Baynes and Rochestie. Game over, right? Wrong. Taylor missed a floater he makes 90 percent of the time.
Though the Beavers did every thing they could to defend their home court, they just ran out of gas. A couple of Rochestie free throws with 1:30 left in overtime gave WSU a 58-53 lead that appeared to be enough for the win.
Scrappy play by OSU allowed them to claw their way back into the game trailing by a single point, 58-57.
With no hop left in the Beavers step, Oregon State couldn't score again.
Three out of four free throws by Rochestie and Caleb Forrest brought the final score up to 61-57 at the end of overtime.
Aron Baynes lead WSU with perfect shooting on the night. He was 6-6 from the field and 5-5 from the charity stripe for 17 points. Rochestie continued his solid play by scoring 14 points, going 3-4 from behind the arc.
Freshman Klay Thompson had a good game on both ends of the floor, scoring 12 points on 5-10 shooting.
Despite the loss, there's no question that Coach Robinson has the Beavers playing good basketball. The improvement in OSU basketball over last season is dramatic. Instead of securing a lock on last place in the conference, Oregon State is a force to be reckoned with in the Pac-10.
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