By KEVIN HAMPTON
There was a surprise waiting for the Oregon State men’s basketball team in its game against the Howard Bison.
Howard coach Kevin Nickleberry sprung a strategic maneuver on defense that had the Beavers befuddled for a time.
The Bison sagged on defense and closed out on OSU’s outside shooters.
“It was kind of tough,” OSU guard Roberto Nelson said. “They kind of sagged off. They had a man and sometimes we thought they were in a zone, so it was definitely confusing at first. They were just sagging off of us and trying to make us shoot shots.”
The Beavers (8-2) solved it well enough to take a 69-53 win on Wednesday evening before 3,879 fans at Gill Coliseum.
“I thought they executed it really well,” OSU coach Craig Robinson said. “And I was absolutely pleased with how our guys were kind of taken aback and had to figure it out on the fly on their own.”
The Beavers struggled for a bit in the first half after a fast start and then put together enough on offense to create a double-figure gap that they held throughout the second.
It wasn’t a masterpiece, but Robinson was pleased with how his team was able to respond.
“While it wasn’t the prettiest win, it felt like one of those kind of wins where you can see your team making some progress on their own, without our help,” he said.
Eric Moreland finished with another double-double, his fourth of the season.
Moreland had 14 points and 10 rebounds.
“He’s just been playing so consistently and if we can count on his play in conference to be like this, then we’re going to go into all of our games extremely confident,” Robinson said.
The Beavers took control in the second half but never could send the game into blowout mode.
A late run in the first half gave OSU a 10-point gap.
Ahmad Starks snapped out of a two-game slump and had two of his three 3-pointers in the second half.
Getting Starks back as a long-range threat was crucial for the Beavers.
“I thought that his first 3 that went in was probably the loudest the applause was all night long,” Robinson said. “I think everybody breathed a sigh of relief when he made that one and then when he came back and made the other two, it was a good feeling, especially when he made the one where he just sized it up at the 3 and he had a bigger guy on him and the guy was backing up and he just pulled up.
“That’s the Ahmad that we know. And we need that, especially (against) a defense like they were playing.”
Nelson finished with 14.
Moreland said when the guards started hitting shots, the Beavers were able to break down the defense.
“Ahmad and Roberto started getting going and then they started everybody going,” Moreland said. “(The Bison) did sag a lot and that was a problem at first, but when they started knocking down their shots, then they got everybody else open, so everybody started clicking.”
Robinson had a surprise up his sleeve as well. He started sixth man, Devon Collier.
Collier had 25 points and eight rebounds in the win over Chicago State and Robinson decided to shake it up to see if the Beavers would respond with a fast start.
“It was time to make a change, just to do a comparison,” he said.
“I initially did it because I thought the last game gave me an opportunity to see some things and we got off to those two slow starts and I thought this would get us off to a faster start.”
The plan worked to a degree. The Beavers jumped out to a 12-2 lead, but the Bison worked back into it during the middle of the first half.
Collier finished with 12 points and four boards.
Oregon St. 69, Howard 53
Howard (3-9): Okoroh 5-9 3-4 13, Phillips 6-11 3-4 15, Leary 2-2 0-0 4, Thompson 0-7 0-0 0, Frazier 2-10 2-4 6, Okoro II 0-1 0-0 0, Lee 0-1 1-2 1, Dickerson 3-5 0-0 8, Ford 0-4 2-4 2, Boyomo 2-2 0-0 4. Totals 20-52 11-18 53.
Oregon St. (8-2): Moreland 5-9 4-5 14, Reid 2-5 3-3 7, Collier 4-5 4-4 12, Starks 3-4 0-0 9, Nelson 3-9 7-8 14, Robbins 0-1 0-0 0, Moyer 0-0 0-0 0, Barton 0-2 0-0 0, Jones 1-1 0-0 2, Burton 2-9 4-7 8, Morris-Walker 1-1 0-0 3, Mitchell 0-0 0-0 0, Schaftenaar 0-2 0-0 0, Powers 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 21-48 22-27 69.
Halftime — Oregon St. 33-23. 3-Point Goals — Howard 2-8 (Dickerson 2-4, Frazier 0-2, Thompson 0-2), Oregon St. 5-11 (Starks 3-4, Morris-Walker 1-1, Nelson 1-3, Moreland 0-1, Schaftenaar 0-2). Fouled Out — None. Rebounds — Howard 29 (Leary 5), Oregon St. 36 (Moreland 10). Assists — Howard 12 (Frazier 4), Oregon St. 14 (Nelson 7). Total Fouls — Howard 19, Oregon St. 12. Technical — Howard Bench. A — 3,879.