Oregon State will be going to the NCAA Division I men's basketball tournament for just the second time in the last 30 years after defeating Colorado 70-68 in the Pac-12 tournament championship game Saturday at T-Mobile Center in Las Vegas.
Maurice Calloo led the Beavers with 15 points off the bench. Jarod Lucas added 13 points, and Warith Alatishe capped his excellent Pac-12 tournament with eight points and seven rebounds.
For Colorado, McKinley Wright IV led all scorers with 17 points. Evan Battey added 16.
A Wright three-pointer cut Oregon State's led to 68-66 with seven seconds remaining. Lucas made one-of-two free throws in response. Oregon State then fouled Wright to prevent a game-tying three-point attempt. Wright made both free throws, putting Colorado behind 69-68 with two seconds left.
Colorado fouled Roman Silva, who missed the first free throw but made the second. With 1.4 seconds left, Colorado inbounded the ball to Wright, who attempted a half-court heave at the buzzer. The shot was off the mark, and the Beavers made the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2016 and second time since 1990.
Oregon State was also crowned Pac-12 tournament champions for the first time in school history Saturday. The Beavers had been named regular-season champions 12 times previously.
The fifth-seeded Beavers, who upset top-seeded Oregon to reach the finals, improved to 17-12. The third-seeded Buffaloes, who won six straight games prior to Saturday, fell to 22-8.
Colorado G McKinley Wright IV: 18 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists
Colorado F Evan Battey: 16 points, 8 rebounds
Colorado G D'Shawn Schwartz: 11 points
Colorado G Jeriah Horne: 6 points, 5 rebounds
Oregon State G Ethan Thompson: 7 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists
Oregon State G Jarod Lucas: 14 points
Oregon State F Warith Alatishe: 8 points, 7 rebounds
Oregon State F Maurice Calloo: 15 points
Oregon State Grinds Its Way to Pac-12 Title
Like all other college basketball teams trying to get through the 2020-21 season amid the COVID-19 pandemic, this hasn't been an easy year for Oregon State.
Expectations weren't high, for starters. The Pac-12 media members' preseason poll picked the Beavers to finish last.
The on-court struggles were prevalent in the early going. An early three-game losing streak included a defeat to a Portland team that eventually went winless in the West Coast Conference.
The Beavers got back on track by winning three of their next four, but Oregon State then had to pause program activities and postpone a pair of games against Utah and Colorado due to COVID-19 testing and contact tracing protocols.
Once they returned, the conference slate became a roller-coaster ride, featuring a pair of three-game win streaks but also a 2-5 stretch as well. They eventually finished 10-10 in conference, good enough for fifth in the league.
Ultimately, Oregon State's resume was not good enough for an at-large bid, and the Beavers went into Las Vegas needing to win the tournament to lock in a March Madness bid.
They've done just that. The Beavers rallied from 16 points down to stun fourth-seeded UCLA 83-79 in overtime. Oregon State then dominated in-state rival and top-seeded Oregon 75-64 to set up a date with Colorado for the tournament crown.
The Beavers needed a total team effort to put the Buffaloes away. Calloo shined off the bench, scoring 10 first-half points to give Oregon State a 33-28 halftime edge.
Oregon State then needed to survive and advance in the second half. The Beavers scratched and clawed for the win, turning defensive into offense when Roman Silva's steal and dish led to a Gianni Hunt bucket on the other end to give his team a 40-37 lead.
That bucket helped Oregon State go on an 11-2 run to go up 47-39, but Colorado fought back once again, pulling within three off a pair of Jeriah Horne free throws. However, Alatishe was there to save the day as has been the case all tournament, grabbing an offensive rebound and scoring a putback bucket:
Alatishe's rebounding prowess came up big later on, as his offensive board led to a Jarod Lucas three-pointer to give Oregon State a 64-57 advantage:
Colorado responded with four straight points, but Alatishe put his cape on again and drove to the bucket for a huge layup to give Oregon State a five-point advantage:
The Beavers held on for dear life down the stretch, but their grit and hustle during the game ultimately paid off in the form of an NCAA tournament berth.
Tough Shooting Night Dooms Colorado
Colorado won't be happy after losing its chance at a Pac-12 tournament title, but the Buffaloes can take solace in a few silver linings following the defeat.
First of all, the Buffaloes will be going dancing regardless. It's highly unlikely the 22-8 team, which finished third in the Pac-12 and has a NET ranking of 11, will be going home to Boulder as opposed to Indianapolis for the tournament.
Secondly, Colorado didn't play poorly Saturday. The Buffaloes hung with a tough, feisty team that's currently rolling through the Pac-12 on a hot streak. They only committed nine turnovers and also out-rebounded Oregon State 32-27.
Third, Colorado's unusually subpar shooting was the main culprit. The Buffaloes, who made 83.1 percent of their free throws coming into this game, went just 12-of-20 from the charity stripe. Colorado also went just 6-of-19 from three-point range (31.6 percent), with Jeriah Horne missing all five of his shots from downtown.
Horne entered the night shooting 44 percent from three-point range. Chances are he isn't going scoreless from deep in the tournament.
Colorado should be a dangerous team in March. The Buffaloes won six straight games before running into the Oregon State buzzsaw, and Wright is playing like he can carry Colorado to a deep tournament run. If the shots start falling, that might just happen.
Oregon State will wait to hear its name called when the NCAA tournament field is revealed beginning Sunday at 6 p.m. ET on CBS.
Despite the loss, Colorado will assuredly receive an at-large bid. On Saturday, the Buffaloes were projected to be a No. 5 seed in most of the bracket projections aggregated by the Bracket Matrix.