Drew Eubanks took a Seth Berger pass, finished a powerful one-handed dunk while taking contact and followed it with an emphatic fist pump.
Oregon State had in hand the bounce-back effort it needed Thursday after a disappointing two-game road trip in the desert.
Eubanks’ flush with 33.8 seconds put the Beavers out of reach of UCLA as OSU held on for a 69-63 win at Gill Coliseum.
Tres Tinkle had a team-high 16 points plus six rebounds for OSU (11-7, 3-3 Pac-12), which was coming off a swing through Arizona in which it held second-half leads against two ranked teams but came away with two losses.
The Beavers saw the Bruins (13-6, 4-3) erase an eight-point deficit midway through the second half and even take a lead.
But it was OSU that had the final say, getting key defensive stops and closing the game on a 12-5 run.
“You saw the last eight minutes, four minutes, and down to the minute, we did a really good job staying strong and closing that game out,” said Berger, who made big plays on both ends, particularly after halftime. “So I think that was the biggest improvement for us.”
Five OSU players in all scored in double figures. Eubanks and Stevie Thompson had 12 points each, Ethan Thompson 11 and Berger 10.
Eubanks added a team-high seven rebounds for the Beavers, who won the boards 45-37, including 18 offensive rebounds. Tinkle and Ethan Thompson had six each and Alfred Hollins five off the bench.
Aaron Holiday had 22 points and Thomas Welsh 10 points and 13 rebounds for UCLA.
When asked if the victory was essential after two difficult defeats, OSU coach Wayne Tinkle said, “we had to have,” stopped himself, chuckled and then continued.
“It’s always funny. I used to, when I was a little younger, say there’s no such thing as a must-win until you’re facing elimination. But these guys have been through so much, they deserve these wins. This road trip that we just came back from, they absolutely gave us everything they had and we came up short.”
There were no panic buttons pressed, the coach said, just pushing the players to get better. The hope was, in returning home, that some momentum might be found and a slingshot effect be the result.
“We’ve just got to continue to stick to what we know works for us, defensively, offensively and not vary from that,” coach Tinkle said.
The Beavers kept a high intensity level on defense as they have in Pac-12 play and held the Bruins 23 points below their conference average.
OSU shot 23 of 63 (36.5) and UCLA 22 of 58 (37.9), the Bruins’ second-lowest shooting percentage of the season.
Holiday, a guard averaging 21.5 points in conference play, was held to four first-half points on 1 of 5 from the floor.
Holiday quickly added seven more in the first three minutes after halftime to keep the game close.
Eubanks got involved early in the half, picking up where he left off just before halftime. He scored inside and then took a Tres Tinkle pass and dunked to put the Beavers up five.
Berger has found his comfort zone offensively in conference play and got there again Thursday. He scored six points in less than three minutes, including a corner 3-pointer that gave OSU a 46-40 lead. Ethan Thompson added two free throws to make it an eight-point advantage.
But soon after the Beavers got sloppy with errant passes, and the Bruins used an 8-0 run to tie the game.
A Stevie Thompson layin and two Hollins free throws gave OSU a small cushion.
UCLA caught up quickly and the teams went down the stretch trading the lead.
Berger’s offensive putback with 3:43 remaining gave the Beavers a 59-58 lead.
Tres Tinkle’s 3-pointer from the wing with 2:56 left gave OSU the lead for good at 62-60. After a defensive stop, Ethan Thompson found his brother for a corner 3 as the shot clock wound down.
“We just stayed together, executed our offense,” Tres Tinkle said. “No one rushed shots or went out of what was working. And sure enough, at the end it paid off for us.”
Ethan Thompson and Tres Tinkle each made all six of their free-throw attempts. Thompson was 4 of 12 in the previous four games. Tinkle is 33 of 34 in the last seven games.
Better late than never, Oregon State found some offensive rhythm in the closing minutes of the first half to take a 31-26 lead into halftime.
But not before what was a struggle with the ball for both teams for more than 15 minutes.
Neither team could get much going for long stretches. At one point they were a combined 11-of-45 shooting from the floor.
Two Tinkle free throws with 3:17 left in the half started an 11-3 Beaver run to halftime. Ethan Thompson added a corner 3-pointer and Eubanks scored four points on offensive rebounds, including a putback with in the closing second to put the Beavers up five.