The Oregon State Beavers are headed to the second weekend of the 2021 NCAA men's basketball tournament.
The No. 12 seed in the Midwest Region upset the fourth-seeded Oklahoma State Cowboys 80-70 in Sunday's second-round showdown at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. Ethan Thompson and Maurice Calloo led the way for the Beavers, who advanced to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1982.
A late push and 24 points on just 6-of-20 shooting from Cade Cunningham were not enough for the Cowboys, who have not made it past the second round since 2005.
Notable Player Stats
- Ethan Thompson, G, OR ST: 26 PTS, 7 REB
- Jarod Lucas, G, OR ST: 15 PTS, 6 REB
- Maurice Calloo, F, OR ST: 15 PTS, 5 REB, 3-of-5 3PT
- Cade Cunningham, G, OK ST: 24 PTS, 5 STL, 4 REB, 3 AST
- Avery Anderson III, G, OK ST: 16 PTS, 4 STL, 4 AST, 3 REB
Ethan Thompson's Clutch Play Holds Off Oklahoma State Charge
Sometimes all it takes is getting hot at the right time to change the trajectory of an entire season.
Oregon State was entirely mediocre at 11-11 overall and 7-9 in Pac-12 play in late February when something switched. The Beavers won three of their final four regular-season games and then ripped off three straight victories over tournament teams in UCLA, Oregon and Colorado in the conference tournament to take the Pac-12 crown.
They remained dialed in during the Big Dance with a 14-point win over Tennessee and picked up where they left off Sunday by jumping out to a double-digit lead in the first half.
It was the bench that set the early tone, as Calloo caught fire from deep and Dearon Tucker swatted four shots before intermission. That it was Calloo (5.2 PPG) who provided the spark underscored just how different this Beavers team was than the one that slogged through much of the schedule.
Contributions from the bench were all the more important with leading scorer Thompson in and out of the lineup with foul trouble. Jarod Lucas picked up the slack for the starting lineup by hitting from deep, while Warith Alatishe and Roman Silva battled for boards.
Despite those efforts, Oklahoma State cut the lead to as little as two with a second-half push and appeared primed to take over down the stretch. Instead, Thompson returned to the floor and helped weather the storm by avoiding turnovers as he broke the press and calmly drilling 15-of-16 free throws in a whistle-heavy game.
He also hit a clutch jumper over Cunningham's swarming defense and made six shots from the charity stripe in the last two minutes to clinch the win.
Oklahoma State's Frantic Comeback Falls Short
Cunningham is always under the spotlight when Oklahoma State takes the court, but that was especially the case after he went just 3-of-14 from the field in his first career NCAA tournament game on Friday.
Avery Anderson III came to the rescue in that victory over Liberty, but he found himself in early foul trouble against the Beavers and was relatively quiet in the first half. That, along with more struggles from the field for Cunningham, spelled trouble for the Cowboys as they fell behind by as many as 18 before intermission.
Cunningham hit a couple early threes in the second half to help flip the momentum, but the biggest difference was Oklahoma State's decision to dial up the defensive pressure. It clawed its way back into the game by forcing 20 turnovers in all, many of which came when Thompson was on the bench with foul trouble as Oregon State's primary ball-handler.
Anderson was applying much of that defensive pressure and helped create opportunities on the other end. His ability to get to the free-throw line and convert also helped the Cowboys come storming back well before crunch time.
Still, Oregon State had an answer every time it appeared as if Oklahoma State would finally take over. Cunningham helped make one final push by assisting a Keylan Boone three, stealing the ball and hitting another triple to cut the deficit to three, but the Cowboys were completely out of control down the stretch.
They didn't make a single field goal in the final 3:40 of the game while forcing the issue against steady defense, which ultimately ended their season.
The Beavers face the eighth-seeded Loyola of Chicago Ramblers in the Sweet 16 next weekend.