Suddenly, a season that seemed to be taking a promising turn not long ago has gone in the wrong direction.
A three-game losing streak has Oregon State fighting to stay above water in the final few weeks of the regular season.
On Thursday, the Beavers squandered chance after chance and lost 87-82 at Stanford.
The Beavers did not defend well enough, did not keep the Cardinal off the offensive boards, missed big free throws and didn’t score often enough off turnovers.
“This is happening to us too much,” OSU guard Jared Cunningham said following the loss. “We need to figure out something and a different way to approach this. We have to play hard from the beginning. Stanford came out and knocked down some shots and got going early. Our defense came back in the middle of the first half and we caught up to take the lead. But the second half they knocked down some more shots and we couldn’t come back from there.”
The result had coach Craig Robinson wondering if he needs to return to square one.
“I wasn’t as hard on them this year because I thought that they were better and that they were conducting themselves where I could treat them more like grown men,” he said. “But maybe I have to change that. Maybe I’ve got to make a spectacle of myself to get them going.”
Needing to get back in the win column, the Beavers now get Pacific-12 Conference leaders California in Berkeley.
The Golden Bears are 21-6, 11-3. They are 16-1 at home and just took an 86-83 win over Oregon.
“Cal is just so well-coached, so well at executing their game plan, that they rarely beat themselves,” Robinson said. “You have to beat them in order to win and that’s doubly hard when you’re on the road.”
It’s not as bad as it sounds.
For whatever reason, the Beavers have done quite well against Cal recently.
Even though the Golden Bears have been in the upper division of the conference, the Beavers seem to give them fits.
OSU swept Cal in 2008-09 and split the next season. The Golden Bears swept the series last year but the Beavers won 92-85 in the first meeting this season.
“Historically, since I’ve been here, we’ve had good matchups with them,” Robinson said. “I don’t know what it is other than we always seem to be a little bit longer than they are. But even before we were playing this way, when we were playing more of a plodding way, we had some success.”
That success, particularly the win earlier this season, could give the Beavers the confidence they need in Berkeley.
“It’s interesting about confidence and attitude. When you think you can beat somebody, it gives you a little bit of a boost,” Robinson said. “So I think, first and foremost, we have the confidence because we have a history of beating those guys. Secondly, I think we match up well with them, even though they have good players.”
The Golden Bears have plenty of good players.
Allen Crabbe, a 6-foot-6 sophomore guard, leads the team in scoring with 15.6 points a game and grabs 5.8 rebounds.
Sophomore guard Justin Cobbs (6-2) scores 13.3 points a game and 6-8 forward Harper Kamp adds inside muscle with 10.7 points and 5.0 rebounds.
David Kravish, a 6-9 forward, grabs 5.6 rebounds and 6-10 Richard Solomon averages 6.2 boards a game.
The key to Cal’s success just might be 6-3 senior guard Jorge Gutierrez.
Gutierrez averages 13.4 points and 5.2 rebounds and does a little bit of everything.
Robinson said Gutierrez is capable of a big scoring game but has spent his career on teams with top scoring threats.
“But he does other things,” Robinson said. “He runs that team. He’s a great leader. He gets steals and stops and blocks.”