Late-game heroics from a seasoned veteran and a rookie who didn’t play like one have Oregon State another step closer to being a serious player in Pac-12 men’s basketball.
The Beavers escaped Gill Coliseum with a 76-75 win against USC on Thursday night after Trojans guard Pe’Shon Howard missed the second of two free throws with nine-tenths of a second left in overtime. OSU’s Devon Collier grabbed the rebound to seal the victory.
Freshman Hallice Cooke hit a 3-pointer late in regulation to tie it, helping the Beavers (12-8, 4-4 Pac-12) climb back from four-point deficit with two minutes left.
Then senior Roberto Nelson, OSU’s go-to guy and the conference’s top scorer, had all four of the Beavers’ points in the five-minute extra period, including the go-ahead layin with 24 seconds remaining.
The victory is the third in the last four games. It gives OSU, with a home win Sunday against UCLA, the chance to get to 5-4 at the halfway point of conference play for the first time since the 1998-99 season.
“This late in the season, we’ve never been this relevant,” said Beavers coach Craig Robinson. “This season sort of trumps all the other seasons.”
In Robinson’s previous five years, the Beavers have never won more than eight conference games. Their victory Thursday equals the Pac-12 win total from last year.
OSU struggled at the free-throw line, making 20 of 35, at 57.1 percent well below the team’s season average of 73.8 coming into the contest.
USC had made 19 of 20 and Howard all seven of his attempts before missing the final one.
“That put years on my life and I’m already old enough,” OSU senior center Angus Brandt said. “That was just one of those games where we probably shouldn’t have won the game. We couldn’t knock our free throws down. USC played great, we just managed to somehow get it done.”
USC (10-11, 1-7) was fighting for its first conference road win after losing the first three by 34, 18 and 21.
Byron Wesley had 23 points and Howard 16 for the Trojans, who led by as many as eight while the Beavers labored through a sluggish first half.
It didn’t look good for OSU down the stretch of regulation, trailing 72-68 with two minutes left.
Collier made 1 of 2 free throws at the 1:37 mark to make it a three-point game.
Oregon State got a defensive stop and a long down-court pass ended up in the hands of freshman center Daniel Gomis, who flew to the basket but missed a two-handed dunk.
Teammate Eric Moreland grabbed the rebound and got the ball on the left wing to Cooke, who sank the game-tying 3-pointer.
Cooke didn’t get off a shot in 12 minutes of the first and heard about it from Robinson at the break.
“Coach challenged me at halftime, said I didn’t come out with enough energy,” said Cooke, who had 11 points all in the second half. “Once I got myself going it took off from there and was able to make plays and be aggressive.”
Nelson took that same aggressive attitude in the final 14 minutes of the game, scoring 14 of his game-high 24 points in that stretch.
His 15-foot bankshot with 3:09 left in overtime provided the first points of the extra period.
Both teams struggled on offensive in the overtime. Howard’s layin with 1:02 remaining tie the game at 74-all.
The ball was in Nelson’s hands on OSU’s final possession.
Nelson was about 10 feet from the basket, surrounded by several USC players with seemingly nowhere to go. But he somehow got the ball in the basket with a quick step toward the hoop that bought him just enough room to get off a shot.
“Roberto took it upon himself to just will us to victory,” Robinson said.
After a USC timeout, Wesley worked his way to the basket but missed the layin.
Moreland grabbed the rebound and got the ball to Nelson, who had it picked by Howard near midcourt. Howard drove to the basket from the right side and was fouled by Gomis, who tried to take a charge.
The Beavers won the rebound category, 47-36, behind 10 from Moreland, all in the second half. He also had five points, four blocks and three assists.
Brandt had 11 of his 14 points in the first half. Collier scored 13 points off the bench.
Oregon St. 76, Southern Cal 75 (OT)
SOUTHERN CAL (10-11) — Jovanovic 2-6 0-0 5, Oraby 6-9 1-2 13, Howard 4-11 7-8 16, Terrell 2-7 4-4 8, Wesley 7-17 7-7 23, Bryan 0-0 0-0 0, Jacobs 1-6 0-0 2, Gavrilovic 2-4 0-0 4, Taylor 1-1 0-0 2, Haley 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 26-63 19-21 75.
OREGON STATE (12-8) — Moreland 2-8 1-3 5, Brandt 6-15 2-4 14, Cooke 4-7 2-2 11, Morris-Walker 0-4 1-2 1, Nelson 8-18 5-7 24, Barton 0-0 0-0 0, Duvivier 0-1 1-2 1, Gomis 2-3 1-2 5, Schaftenaar 0-0 0-0 0, Reid 1-1 0-0 2, Collier 3-5 7-13 13. Totals 26-62 20-35 76.
Halftime – Southern Cal 39-36. End Of Regulation — Tied 72. 3-Point Goals — Southern Cal 4-17 (Wesley 2-3, Jovanovic 1-2, Howard 1-6, Jacobs 0-2, Terrell 0-4), Oregon St. 4-12 (Nelson 3-6, Cooke 1-2, Morris-Walker 0-1, Brandt 0-3). Fouled Out - Oraby. Rebounds — Southern Cal 36 (Oraby 8), Oregon St. 47 (Moreland 10). Assists — Southern Cal 9 (Wesley 3), Oregon St. 9 (Moreland 3). Total Fouls — Southern Cal 25, Oregon St. 16. Technical — Oraby. A — 3,774.