How did Oregon State men’s basketball get to this point, meeting Loyola Chicago in the NCAA Sweet 16 on Saturday in Indianapolis?
How did a team that tied for sixth in the Pac-12 regular season and carried the 5 seed into the conference tournament win five straight postseason games and produce the program’s best season in nearly four decades?
Well, here’s a look at the improbable run before the Beavers (19-12) face the Ramblers (26-4) for a chance to keep the ride going.
Oregon State 83, UCLA 79 (OT)
March 11, Las Vegas: It looked early as though the Beavers might be 1-and-done and headed home to prepare for academic finals the following week. The fourth-seeded Bruins used an 18-2 run to take a 30-14 lead with six minutes left in the first half in the Pac-12 quarterfinal.
OSU closed within 10 at halftime and quickly had it down to five after the break. The Beavers eventually tied it at 45-all on a Jarod Lucas 3-pointer with 9:29 left in regulations before the Bruins went back ahead by six in the next three-plus minutes and would lead by seven.
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Oregon State still trailed by four in the final minute before Ethan Thompson converted an and-1 and after a UCLA turnover Gianni Hunt found Warith Alatishe for a layin and a one-point lead with 11 seconds remaining. Bruins guard Jules Bernard was fouled with three second left but made one 1 of 2 free throws, sending the game to overtime.
In a back-and-forth extra period, Rodrigue Andela put the Beavers ahead for good with two fouls shots with 57 seconds left.
After Andela blocked Bernard and Lucas missed a contested layup, Lucas ran down a wayward Bernard pass and was fouled with four seconds remaining.
Lucas made both, and, up three, the Beavers intentionally fouled Johnny Juzang as he came up court. Juzang made the first and missed the second. Andela got the rebound, was fouled and iced the game with two free throws with two seconds to go.
Alatishe had a game-high 22 points and 10 rebounds. Thompson scored all 18 of his points after halftime and became OSU’s all-time leader in games played with 121, breaking a tie with Gary Payton.
It was Oregon State’s fourth win of the season after trailing by 12 points or more.
“Just kind of our whole season rolled into one game,” Beavers coach Wayne Tinkle said afterward.
Oregon State 75, Oregon 64
March 12, Las Vegas: The Beavers were just five days removed from an 80-67 home loss to the Ducks in which Oregon shot 57.4% overall and 15 of 23 (65.2%) on 3-pointers and celebrated claiming the Pac-12 regular-season title on Ralph Miller Court.
Oregon State returned the favor in the conference semifinal, making half or more of its shots for the third time in four games. The Beavers, who shot 50% (25 of 50) overall and 52.6% (10 of 19) on 3s, used a late first-half run to lead by 10 and never gave up momentum.
Fueled by two Thompson 3-pointers, OSU would go up 15 in the first four minutes of the second half. The top-seeded Ducks would get as close as five, but a Lucas 3-pointer with 4:02 left started an 8-0 run that helped the Beavers close it out.
Thompson led the Beavers with 16 points. The Ducks were 6 of 25 on 3-pointers.
Oregon State 70, Colorado 68
March 13, Las Vegas: The Beavers continued their roll and used a 9-0 run (with five points from Zach Reichle) in the first five minutes to take the lead.
The third-seeded Buffaloes led for less than three minutes in the game but kept it interesting. They went ahead 37-36 early in the second half before Oregon State, without Thompson due to foul trouble, answered with a 6-0 to lead for good.
McKinley Wright’s late 3-pointer followed two Lucas free throws to cut the Beavers’ lead to two. After Lucas made 1 of 2 at the line, Wright hit two with two seconds left. Roman Silva made the first but made the second of two foul shots with 1.4 ticks left, and Wright’s long heave at the buzzer was off the mark. Oregon State had its first conference tournament championship in program history.
Reserve Maurice Calloo had 15 points to lead the Beavers in scoring for the first time all season.
Oregon State 70, Tennessee 56
March 19, Indianapolis: The story going into the NCAA first-round game was the fifth-seeded Volunteers’ top-notch defense. The story coming out was how Oregon State smothered Tennessee.
The Beavers controlled the game from the tip and held the Volunteers to 21-of-63 (33.3%) shooting. OSU was 27 of 56 (48.2%). The Beavers led for good on a Lucas 3-pointer less than two minutes into the game, were up 19 late in the first half and led by 20 twice after halftime.
Silva, with 16 points on 8-of-8 from the floor, led Oregon State for the second time in eight games.
Oregon State 80, Oklahoma State 70
March 21, Indianapolis: The Beavers never let the fourth-seeded Cowboys and Cade Cunningham get in a rhythm.
Cunningham, an All-American freshman guard, had 24 points but was just 6-of-20 shooting with four 3-pointers.
The Beavers started slowly, shooting 1 of 11, but were strong offensively from there. Calloo had eight points in a 20-4 run and Oregon State led by 14 at halftime.
Oregon State saw its lead shrink to two, but Thompson had six points in a 12-3 run that put the Beavers back in control.
The Beavers finished 21 of 51 from the floor and the Cowboys 18 of 65. Oregon State has held its two NCAA tournament opponents to a combined 30.5% from the floor.
The foul-heavy game, with six players collecting four or more personals, included 73 free throws. Oregon State was 32 of 35 at the line.
Thompson, who again saw his time limited because of foul trouble, had one of his best game of the season with 26 points and seven rebounds in 28 minutes. His line included 15 of 16 on free throws. Calloo added 15 points, all in the first half.
The Beavers won the rebounds 52-32 with 12 apiece from Alatishe and Silva.
Jesse Sowa can be reached via email at email@example.com or on Twitter, @JesseSowaGT.