EUGENE — Oregon had all the momentum.
Oregon State rode a strong defensive effort along with some of its best offense of the season to an 18-point lead early in the second half Saturday night.
Soon, just getting the ball inbounds became a chore for the Beavers as the rival Ducks turned up the full-court pressure.
Visions of past collapses on the road – particularly in Pac-12 games – had to be going through the heads of the OSU veterans who had been through so many past disappointments.
But it didn’t happen this time.
The lead traded hands throughout the last four minutes, but it was the Beavers who got the upper hand in a 77-72 win at Matthew Knight Arena in the men’s basketball conference opener for both teams.
Zach Reichle made two free throws with 46 seconds left to give OSU (9-4, 1-0) the lead for good. Teammates Antoine Vernon and Stevie Thompson each made a pair after that and Oregon (9-5, 0-1) couldn’t get another shot to go.
“Being able to withstand those runs was really big for our confidence,” said Thompson, a senior guard who celebrated his first win in Eugene and the program’s first victory there since 2012.
Gligorije Rakocevic, OSU’s other senior, added: “This is probably the biggest win, personally for my team and for me. Especially being a senior and not being able to win here the past few years was huge. I can’t even explain to you guys how much this win means to us.”
The Beavers survived 12 second-half turnovers, many of which came after Tinkle gave his team a 62-48 lead on two free throws with 8:28 to play.
A junior forward, Tinkle was back on the floor after suffering a bad left ankle sprain when he landed on another player’s foot with 18:20 left in the game.
He scored as he took a backdoor pass from Thompson. Tinkle limped badly to the team bench and soon hobbled to the locker room to get retaped.
The junior forward missed a little more than two minutes of game time, but it was clear he wasn’t 100 percent.
But he completed a conventional three-point play and soon after sank a 3-pointer to get the lead back to 15.
“I just got back in there and tried to lead. Keep everyone calm. Tell them, ‘that was their run, and keep getting stops, take good shots instead of rushing bad ones,’” Tinkle said.
“Mind over matter, really. I wanted to win down here and I knew my team was going to need me. With that, there was nothing that was going to keep me away from a game like this.”
Tinkle added of his injury: “I’ll be good. Just give me a couple days. It will be fine.”
He has just a few days as the Beavers host USC on Thursday night.
Oregon State committed seven turnovers after holding a 14-point advantage with eight minutes left.
With full-court pressure rattling OSU, it took Oregon a little more than four minutes to grab the lead at 67-66 on two Louis King foul shots. There were three ties and three lead changes before Reichle’s foul shots in the final minute put the Beavers in front to stay.
“They got a little momentum going and we showed a little bit of panic,” Beavers coach Wayne Tinkle said. “The thing that I loved, is in a hostile environment, first game of league on the road, we finally made some plays down the stretch. Our leadership stepped up, we got stops, we made free throws.”
Tres Tinkle had a game-high 28 points with eight rebounds and four assists. Ethan Thompson added 13 points and four assists; Stevie Thompson 10 points and eight rebounds; and Kylor Kelley nine points, seven rebounds and two blocks.
King had 17 points and 10 rebounds and Paul White 15 points to lead Oregon.
There was plenty of blame to go around when it came to the second-half turnovers. Stevie Thompson and Reichle had three apiece in the final 20 minutes but redeemed themselves with the game on the line.
Reichle, a sophomore guard making his first collegiate start, said he felt “really good” because he felt he played poorly and was disappointed with his lost focus.
“I felt like I let my team down in the second half. I didn’t play how I’m supposed to play and how I always play,” he said. “It was big for coach to trust me at the end of the game, especially with how I played earlier.”
Reichle had seven points and two rebounds in a game that was played with two officials instead of the regular three after Steve Olson left the game at 11:31 in the first half. Olson didn’t return, and he was seen with a large boot on a lower leg after the game.
Oregon State shot 26 of 51 (51 percent) but still struggled from 3-point range at 6 of 19 (31.6). Oregon was 26 of 69 (37.7), the Ducks’ second-lowest mark of the season.
Oregon was without superstar freshman center Bol Bol, lost for the season to a foot injury; sophomore forward Kenny Wooten for several more weeks to a broken jaw; and sophomore forward Abu Kigab, who announced earlier in the week that he was transferring.
Oregon State has lost two players off its season-opening roster in true freshmen Jordan Campbell and Jack Wilson.