KANSAS CITY — It was close.
Close enough that the 18,789 mostly Kansas fans filling the Sprint Center in Kansas City were uneasy and nervous through the final seconds.
Oregon State took No. 10 Kansas to the wire, but couldn’t come up with enough big baskets and fell short, 84-78, on Friday in a nonconference men’s game.
“This helps us raise the bar yet again,” OSU coach Craig Robinson said. “We didn’t win this game but everybody sitting in this gym knew we had a team good enough to win this game.”
The Beavers (4-2) were that close to landing the program’s signature win under Robinson.
Moral victories no longer hold water with the team.
“These guys are way past that now,” Robinson said. “They wanted to win this game, they wanted to beat this team and they didn’t use not having Angus (Brandt) as an excuse. They didn’t use not having Daniel Gomis as an excuse. They didn’t use the fact that (Kansas) was ranked No. 10 in the country. They just came out and played hard.”
The Beavers were able to close strong to come within three at the half but Kansas slowly began to build a gap.
Every time the Jayhawks (6-1) seemed on the brink of blowing it open, the Beavers had an answer. Most often it was Ahmad Starks.
Starks hit five 3s in the second half — and a record-tying seven for the game — to keep the Beavers in business.
“Those guys are big,” Starks said. “I laughed when I was looking at their guards. Not in awe, but they’re like 6-4 or 6-5 and big, athletic guards. They’re good, so you look forward to the challenge and you just go attack them.”
Kansas held a 76-65 lead with four minutes, 12 seconds to go.
The Beavers had a run left in the tank. Starks hit a 3, Joe Burton scored and Starks came up with another 3, sandwiched by four Travis Releford free throws.
Roberto Nelson went to the line with 32 seconds left and hit both to bring the Beavers within five.
When Kevin Young missed two on the other end, Starks took the ball to the hoop and dished to Devon Collier for a dunk.
With 15 seconds to go, the Beavers trailed Kansas 80-77.
Not quite enough.
The Beavers weren’t sharp enough at the free throw line and allowed too many easy KU baskets.
A few more free throws, a couple extra stops and the Beavers might have been able to pull off the upset.
“Even the really good guys want to win and they’re worried about winning, so if you make them more worried, you can make some things happen,” Robinson said. “Our game plan was solid. Our execution was B instead of A. We needed an A for execution.”
Starks finished with 25 points to lead all scorers. Nelson added 17, hitting 13 of 14 free throws.
Eric Moreland had a career-best 16 rebounds.
The Beavers did a solid job on KU 7-0 center Jeff Withey, holding him to 17 points, five rebounds and three blocks.
“I thought we tried him out early and he got two quick blocks and then he didn’t get his third block until Ahmad tried to go in there late in the game, so I thought we did a good job on that,” Robinson said.
OSU stuck with the Jayhawks for most of the game.
Kansas seemed to grab control in the first half, taking a 33-19 lead with 6:51 on the clock.
It would have been easy for the Beavers to fold. After all, they were play a perennial power in front of a hostile crowd.
Instead, they put together a 13-0 run. Nelson hit all three free throws after being fouled on a 3-point try and followed up with a three-point play to tie it at 37. Kansas came back with a 5-0 run but Challe Barton hit a driving layup to cut it to 42-39 at the half.
(10) Kansas 84, Oregon State 78
OREGON ST. (4-2) — Burton 3-8 1-4 7, Moreland 2-7 1-2 5, Reid 2-3 0-0 4, Starks 9-20 0-0 25, Nelson 2-11 13-14 17, Barton 1-1 0-0 2, Morris-Walker 0-0 0-0 0, Schaftenaar 2-5 0-0 6, Collier 5-9 2-6 12. Totals 26-64 17-26 78.
KANSAS (6-1) — Young 4-8 2-6 10, Withey 7-9 3-4 17, Johnson 2-4 2-4 6, McLemore 8-14 2-2 21, Releford 8-10 4-4 20, Tharpe 0-0 0-0 0, Adams 1-2 0-0 2, White III 1-5 2-2 4, Wesley 0-0 0-0 0, Manning 0-0 0-0 0, Traylor 0-0 0-0 0, Ellis 2-3 0-0 4. Totals 33-55 15-22 84.
Halftime—Kansas 42-39. 3-Point Goals—Oregon St. 9-20 (Starks 7-13, Schaftenaar 2-3, Moreland 0-1, Nelson 0-3), Kansas 3-9 (McLemore 3-4, Young 0-1, White III 0-2, Johnson 0-2). Fouled Out—Nelson. Rebounds—Oregon St. 32 (Moreland 16), Kansas 35 (Releford 7). Assists—Oregon St. 13 (Burton 4), Kansas 17 (Johnson 9). Total Fouls—Oregon St. 20, Kansas 21. A—18,789.