Oregon State needs its bench.
Without contributions from its reserves, coach Wayne Tinkle says, the team won’t reach its potential.
The Beavers saw some of that potential Friday night in the 76-57 win against Colorado in the Pac-12 men’s basketball opener at Gill Coliseum.
Forward Alfred Hollins played a season-high 22 minutes off the bench. He had four points, four rebounds and one assist.
Ben Kone, another forward, also reached a season high in minutes at 15, more than the three previous games he played combined after returning from a knee injury. He had two rebounds, a block and a steal.
“I thought Alfred and Ben were really good for us. A little bit of the physical and athletic presence in the paint, on the glass,” Tinkle said. “We’re going to need to keep going at those guys.”
Without center Gligorije Rakocevic, sidelined with a right calf injury, the primary bench members so far this season include guards Ronnie Stacy, Zach Reichle and Kendal Manuel and forwards Hollins and Kone.
Manuel missed Friday’s game with a slight groin injury but is expected to be available for Sunday’s home matchup against Utah.
A quick turnaround for Sunday’s game — roughly 41 hours after Friday’s final horn — will require the team to turn to those who didn’t play as much against Colorado, notably Reichle and Stacy.
The injuries plus the midseason transfer of sophomore guard JaQuori McLaughlin earlier this month put even more importance on the bench.
OSU (9-4, 1-0) entered Friday’s game with four players averaging 30 minutes or more a game. Tinkle says that can’t continue if the Beavers are going to keep playing an up-tempo style.
“If we’ve got to shorten the bench, then we’re going to have to slow things down,” the coach said. “I know these guys don’t want to play that way, so we’re just going to keep challenging those guys to get better. They’re young and they need time. The only way to get experience is to get time.”
Those coming off the bench are still learning their roles, even as the conference schedule gets underway.
Tinkle says it’s not necessarily scoring that’s on the top of the players’ to-do list.
“It’s defensive effort. Taking care of the ball, not trying to do too much, not turning it over. Rebounding,” he said. “I think sometimes they’re eager and they want to come in and score and they think that’s going to lead to more playing time. So we’re going through that transition right now.”
A big half
Stevie Thompson was the frequent recipient of the Beavers’ efforts to run the floor in the second half Friday.
The junior guard scored 22 of his game-high 24 points after halftime, helping his team to 28 points off Colorado turnovers.
“I think the team just did a better job of attacking in transition and being aggressive and throwing the ball up the court,” Thompson said of his outburst. “When we’re playing like that it’s easy for everybody to get involved, score the ball and put up a large point total.”
Drew Eubanks had what Tinkle described as one of his best efforts protecting the rim “in a while” Friday. The junior forward had seven points, nine rebounds and a season-high six blocks in 28 minutes.
“He’s so competitive and he wants to do so many things, and we tell him it’s going to be defense and rebounding every night,” Tinkle said. “And then, from game to game it will probably change whether we get you the ball a whole bunch.”
Tinkle believes Eubanks’ seven points — his second-lowest total of the season — “says a lot about our team.”
“Hopefully on Sunday that will flip. But if not, what we said in the locker room, this is a team game and we’ve got to be excited for each other when we get these wins and from there keep building.”