Oregon State has put in the time and found the success that has the Beavers in the top half of the Pac-12 men’s basketball standings heading into the final three weeks of the regular season.
But there’s more work to be done if they want to stay there.
OSU (16-8, 8-4) has found ways to respond after defeats but is still learning to build on success.
“We’ve really done a nice job when we’ve tripped up of bouncing back. It’s really a resilient group,” coach Wayne Tinkle said. “But that’s the next thing. Early on when we started 3-0 we didn’t really handle that success too well on the Arizona trip.”
Oregon State has answered a conference loss with a win each time except for the loss at Arizona State, which was followed by a defeat at Arizona in which the Beavers fell behind big early.
OSU later won at Colorado and Utah for the program’s first conference road sweep in a decade. But the Beavers came home to face Stanford, got off to a slow start and never had a lead in an 83-60 defeat.
Oregon State has since put together two straight wins, at home against California and Oregon, and will try to build on that this week with road games at UCLA on Thursday and USC on Saturday.
“I think we’re doing a better job of closing out games, whether it be better decision-making down the stretch, making free throws down the stretch,” senior guard Stevie Thompson said. “I think those two things have been huge for us, especially in these road games.”
The Beavers have won three conference road games, the most since the 2009-10 team also won three.
OSU has four more road contests left, hosting the Arizona schools next week before wrapping up the regular season at the Washington schools the following week. The program hasn’t won more than three conference road games in a season in 26 years.
The Beavers sat alone in second in the Pac-12 after Saturday night’s win against Oregon.
But the success appears to have them motivated to continue improving.
Oregon State uses film sessions to point out what went right and what didn’t in the previous game. Junior forward Tres Tinkle said he came out of Monday’s session almost feeling as though they had lost to the Ducks.
“Obviously a lot of positives, but you’ve got to learn from your mistakes,” he said. “The best thing to do, even after a win, it wasn’t perfect and we still have a lot of thing we can clean up and be better at.”
Coach Tinkle said his players understand what has helped them already equal the second-most conference wins since 1993 and be within reach of the program’s first winning conference record since 1990.
They also know what has cost them a few more victories.
“So it’s up to us to remind them of keep working on those things and improving,” the coach said.
Those areas include 3-point shooting and defense. If they can curb the deficiencies, their best basketball of the season could still be ahead, he added.
Coach Tinkle asked rhetorically immediately after the Stanford loss whether his team might have been too excited coming off the victories at the mountain schools.
Whatever the reason, the Beavers put forward one of their poorest performances of the season.
Senior center Gligorije Rakocevic said it’s much tougher coming off a win than a loss when it comes to refocusing for the next opponent.
“At the end of the day you’ve just got to not think about it,” he said. “It’s behind you and you can’t really do anything about it. Just have to practice and get ready for the next team and the next opportunity that you get.”
The Beavers weren’t at the top of their game against California but came close to a 40-minute effort versus Oregon.
Oregon State committed eight turnovers, equaling their second-lowest total of the season. The Beavers shot 49 percent from the floor, reaching 48 for the eighth time. OSU lost the rebound category 34-27 but gave up just five second-chance points, its lowest total in the past nine games.
Coach Tinkle expects his team to carry confidence to Los Angeles with the memory of the road sweep three weeks ago.
“But tons of urgency as well because we know these last few weekends are going to be tough and we’ve got to continue to handle our business,” he said.