Oregon State wasn’t without its chances it what became a tough, close defeat Sunday afternoon.
For every missed shot, or officials’ call or non-call the Beavers and their fans disagreed with in the crucial closing stretches, OSU was well within reach of sweeping its opening weekend in Pac-12 men’s basketball.
But the shots didn’t fall, and the Beavers were left with a 66-64 loss to Utah at Gill Coliseum.
“We can’t complain. We had opportunities to win this game in that last minute and just didn’t make the plays,” said OSU coach Wayne Tinkle, whose team answered a 16-2 second-half Utah run to get back in the game late. “But if we stay together and continue to take coaching, we’ll learn and grow and we’ll get better for this down the road.”
The Beavers (9-5, 1-1) had no fewer than three shots in the final seconds, two of which could have provided the game-winner for a squad that was down by eight points with less than four minutes to go.
Sedrick Barefield made one of two free throws with 21.4 seconds left to give Utah (10-3, 2-0) a two-point lead.
Alfred Hollins’ 3-point attempt from the corner was off, but teammate Zach Reichle tipped the ball out to Tres Tinkle on the perimeter for another 3-point try.
“Zach gave us an extra possession, tipped it out to me, shot it, didn’t go in. Then we missed another one at the rim. It is what it is,” said a dejected Tres Tinkle afterward.
That shot also didn’t go, but Stevie Thompson was there for the follow. He missed, and a jump ball was awarded to Oregon State on alternating possession with 1.4 seconds remaining.
“I tried to tip the shot in off the 3 and probably rushed it a little bit. It just didn’t drop, bounced around the rim a few times. Just unfortunate,” Thompson said.
Oregon State had one more chance with the ball under its offensive basket. But Ethan Thompson, the Beavers’ inbounder, was called for moving his feet.
Utah’s ensuing inbounds pass was tipped away by Hollins near midcourt, and his desperation shot, which was off the mark, didn’t appear to be released in time anyway.
“I’ll take the blame,” coach Tinkle said of the inbounds situation. “We maybe should have put a little more experienced guy there but we weren’t very big. We knew he had to get something probably going to the basket.”
Tres Tinkle led the Beavers with 14 points, including a perfect 7 of 7 at the free-throw line that extends his streak to 23 straight makes. He also had five rebounds and five assists.
Stevie Thompson added 13 points and Drew Eubanks 10 points and five rebounds.
Eubanks, a junior forward, was limited to 20 minutes due to foul trouble. He was assessed his fourth and disqualifying fifth fouls less than three minutes apart and fouled out with 7:05 left.
“The big thing is Drew’s got to stay in the game mentally,” Tinkle said. The coach said Eubanks, who picked up three fouls in four second-half minutes, committed at least one careless personal.
OSU’s Seth Berger scored a season-high seven points, all in the first 3-plus minutes.
Justin Bibbins had 18 points and six assists to lead the Utes.
OSU junior center Gligorije Rakocevic sat out a third straight game with a right calf injury suffered Dec. 16 against St. Louis in Portland. Sophomore guard Kendal Manuel missed his second consecutive game with a groin injury.
Stevie Thompson scored a combined 61 points against Utah last season, including a career-high 31 when he hit the go-ahead layin with 10.3 seconds to go in a 68-67 win at Gill.
A year earlier, he made three free throws after being fouled on a last-second shot near midcourt to give OSU a one-point win.
Sunday, he had a quiet first half, with three points on 1-of-3 shooting, but found his shooting touch quickly after halftime.
His two 3-pointers early in the second half helped the Beavers cut a six-point deficit to one.
Another 3, this time from Tres Tinkle, gave Oregon State its first lead since the opening minutes of the game.
The Beavers kept the momentum, later breaking a tie with a 6-0 run. Ethan Thompson followed Stevie Thompson’s miss in transition with 12:13 left to make it 51-45.
Utah came back soon after with a 10-1 during a stretch of more than three minutes in which not much went right for the home team.
The Utes pushed that to 16-2 and led 63-55 on Barefield’s foul shot with 3:37 left.
Reichle hit a 3-pointer and Stevie Thompson scored in transition off a Reichle steal as the Beavers repeatedly got stops on the other end.
Tres Tinkle drove and found Hollins underneath for a dunk to close the gap to one (63-62) with 1:07 left.
The teams traded two free throws each by Bibbins and Tres Tinkle before Barefield’s foul shot set up the Beavers’ final possession.