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OSU men's basketball: Beavers find energy, defense to take down Wildcats
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OSU men's basketball: Beavers find energy, defense to take down Wildcats

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Wayne Tinkle joked after his team’s Jan. 5 comeback win at Colorado that his players had “messed up” because they had shown what they were capable of doing.

Oregon State tripped up four days later, potentially taking a struggling Arizona State team too lightly in the Beavers’ Pac-12 men’s basketball home opener, an 82-76 loss this past Thursday.

Sunday night, OSU showed its coach again what is out there if the team is locked in and focused on defense.

The Beavers held No. 24 Arizona to 34.5% shooting on their way to an 82-65 win at Gill Coliseum to get back to even in conference play.

“We’ve got a long way to go defensively. Tonight, that was our focus,” Tinkle said. “Our defense has been horrid the last four or five games and our teams don’t play that way. These guys took it personal when we challenged them and responded.”

Led by Zeke Nnaji’s 21 points and nine rebounds, Arizona (11-5, 1-2) shot 39.6% overall, marking the first time in seven games that Oregon State (12-4, 2-2) has held an opponent under 40%.

Tres Tinkle had 20 points, six rebounds and seven assists and Ethan Thompson 18 points and eight assists as the Beavers had all five starters in double-figure scoring for the first time this season.

Kylor Kelley added 13 points and Alfred Hollins 12, both with six rebounds, and Zach Reichle 11 points.

“I think we started off the game with a lot of energy,” Thompson said of what his team found Sunday that might have been missing or lacking. “That led to a lot of energy on defense, a lot of deflections, steals.”

The Beavers got seven steals in all, three by Tinkle. Oregon State won the rebounds 31-28.

OSU shot 65.4% in the second half and 54.0 overall, outscoring the Wildcats 33-16 after Nnaji’s two free throws with 12:05 left tied the game at 49-all.

“I credit Oregon State. They were outstanding in the second half. We really couldn’t guard them,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said. “So much of it was just, I’d use the word outclassed. We just weren’t able to match up with the players that they have.”

Arizona used an 8-2 run early in the second half to go ahead 39-35.

Thompson’s block of Nico Mannion on a transition layin started a fast break to the other end that Hollins finished with a flush on a Kelley assist.

Miller was called for a technical foul in that stretch, and Tres Tinkle made both free throws to tie the game at 41-all. Tinkle hit a 3-pointer soon after for a 44-43 OSU lead with 15:20 remaining.

Later, Hollins was bending over from the waist after apparently getting hit in the face on a rebound just seconds before hitting a 3-pointer from the left wing for a 56-49 Beavers lead.

Reichle would add a layin and two free throws before Thompson hit Tinkle with a backdoor pass for a layin to put Oregon State ahead by 12.

The Beavers essentially put the game out of reach with a 6-0 run that started with Thompson making a spinning move in the key and finding Kelley for a two-handed jam and a foul that got the home crowd off its feet.

Kelley missed the free throw but soon after made two more in a one-and-one opportunity. Thompson made two of three foul shots after getting hacked on a 3-point attempt with 4:03 remaining to give OSU a 74-56 advantage.

Arizona would get no closer than 15 from there.

Tres Tinkle, the coach’s son, echoed his father’s idea that maybe wins have been celebrated too much. The Beavers believed they possibly weren’t ready for Arizona State because they were still looking back at the victory at Colorado.

“We’ve shown when we’re down we can fight. We’ve got to live in the moment, enjoy it and move on,” he said.

Tinkle, a senior forward, moved past Mel Counts (1961-64) for third on OSU’s career scoring list. Tinkle now has 1,979 points. Next on the list is Steve Johnson (2,035, 1976-81), who was in attendance Sunday.

Thompson, a junior guard, passed 1,000 career points with a second-half 3-pointer.

A quick start gave the Beavers some momentum and a lead they would hold for nearly 14 minutes in the first half.

Thompson had five points in an 8-0 run that saw OSU take a 13-6 lead.

The Beavers got contributions from reserves Payton Dastrup (four points, two rebounds for the half) and Sean Miller-Moore (two points, one assist, one steal) that kept the home team ahead 19-14.

Dastrup’s two free throws with 5:56 left in the half gave OSU a 26-20 lead.

It was that margin and some solid defense that kept the Wildcats from running away with it because the Beavers would go the next five-plus minutes without scoring.

Reichle found Hollins for a corner 3-pointer that put OSU up 29-28 with 45 seconds left in the half. Reichle’s reverse layin in the closing seconds tied the game at 31-all.

The Beavers had a 17-11 rebounding edge, with five offensive, at halftime. Nnaji and Tinkle each had nine points to lead their respective teams.

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