Oregon State’s fall semester finals came last week. But the Beavers had one more test to pass Tuesday night.
They were forced to answer one Jacksonville State run after another and eventually came away with a fifth straight win despite spending what had to seem like an eternity on the defensive end at the end of the game.
OSU made four consecutive stops in the closing stretches to pull out a 70-69 win at Gill Coliseum.
The Beavers (7-3) overcame two turnovers and not scoring after Tres Tinkle’s layin gave the home team a 70-67 lead with 2:32 left.
“The main thing I learned is when we really dig down and try to get a stop, that we can get a stop,” said junior guard Stevie Thompson, who had a team-high 18 points and five assists. “We’ve got to do that throughout the 40 minutes of the game and we’ll put ourselves in a much better situation to pull games out earlier.”
The teams played a game of yo-yo throughout the last 17 minutes, with Oregon State’s lead swinging from one to five or six and back to one again
Jamall Gregory’s two free throws with 1:21 left cut the Gamecocks’ deficit to 70-69.
A second Beavers turnover in 26 seconds, a double-dribble called on Tres Tinkle, gave the Gamecocks (7-3) the first of four opportunities to take the lead.
Gregory drove and got blocked by Drew Eubanks, with the ball going out of bounds. Gregory drove again, and the loose ball went over to Oregon State.
At the other end, Stevie Thompson missed a contested 3-pointer with the shot clock ticking down, and JSU had another chance with 17.8 seconds remaining.
Eubanks blocked Gregory again on an inside shot, and the Gamecocks had one baseline possession with 1.5 seconds left.
The inbounds pass went to JSU 7-footer Norbertas Giga, whose contested midrange baseline jumper over Eubanks was off the mark, and the Beavers could finally exhale.
“We showed spurts throughout the 40 minutes but I think we’ve got to get better and do that more consistent,” OSU freshman guard Ethan Thompson said of his team’s defensive effort.
The Gamecocks were held to 42.1 percent shooting, including 10 of 25 in the second half, well below the 52.2 percent that put them sixth in the country. Malcolm Drumwright led them with 20 points.
Oregon State itself shot 52.2 percent (24 of 46) from the floor and 63.3 percent (14 of 22) at the free-throw line. JSU was 16 of 17 at the line.
Eubanks had 13 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks, and Kendal Manuel and Tres Tinkle added 10 points apiece. Ethan Thompson had nine points and five assists.
Oregon State coach Wayne Tinkle said recently that his team is getting better every day.
He added Tuesday that he’s seeing more maturity but with room to improve. The defensive game plan wasn’t followed as closely as he hoped, particularly in guarding shooters.
“But baby steps, man. We’re not going to build this thing in a day,” coach Tinkle said. “Guys have been through a lot, there’s a lot of emotions involved. Some apprehension probably from time to time. But we’re moving in the right direction and we’re learning every day. That’s all we can ask of our guys, learning and staying together. The next step is bringing that intensity and focus for 40 minutes.”
Ethan Thompson’s four-point play to open the second half gave the Beavers their first lead of the game at 37-36.
A short baseline jumper by Eubanks and a Stevie Thompson 3-pointer pushed the advantage to five.
Jacksonville State hung around, and Oregon State got its lead back to five on four occasions. Stevie Thompson broke that barrier as his fourth 3-pointer of the game put the Beavers ahead 57-51 with 9:34 to go.
The Gamecocks clawed back to within one. OSU’s answer was a Eubanks layin and a Kendal Manuel 3-pointer for a six-point lead with 6:32 left.
Drumwright’s 3-pointer got it back to one a little more than a minute later.
The Beavers lost the rebounding battle 32-27, and the Gamecocks had 13 offensive boards.
Oregon State never led in the first half but managed to keep it close despite going more than six minutes without a field goal.
Stevie Thompson made two early 3-pointers and Gligorije Rakocevic’s inside basket closed the gap to 16-15 with 10:31 to go.
Five free throws were all the Beavers would get in the next six minutes as the Gamecocks stretched their lead to six.
OSU later had a quick five-point run on a Manuel 3-pointer and a Tres Tinkle transition basket to get back within two. Jacksonville State would push it back to six before the Beavers closed the half on a 6-3 run — with four points from Stevie Thompson — to trail by three at the break.