HOOPS: Beavs sing a different tune against UW

JOE BURTON

CORVALLIS -- Oregon State came away with a clean victory on Wednesday evening in Gill Coliseum, beating the Washington Huskies 74-66. It was the first conference victory for Oregon State, and the much awaited end to what had been a five game losing streak for the Beavers. So why was OSU singing a different tune against Washington this time?

The Beavers were practically bottled lightning during the first half, tossing up 39 points with apparent ease. OSU took the lead early and never looked back. Well, actually they did.

A 20-point first half lead with less than six minutes remaining in the first half slowly became a 10 point lead as the buzzer rang, indicating half time. And then there was that moment where the Huskies crawled to within one point of the Beavers during the second half.

"I want to say this was a good win. We needed that win. Obviously it feels good, but the best part about this is that it was a complete team effort," said Head Coach Craig Robinson. "What you saw (tonight) is what we are capable of doing."

But what did we really see on Wednesday? An OSU basketball team who didn't quit, despite coming off a five game conference losing streak and a true bummer of a road trip to Los Angeles. We also saw a Beaver basketball squad who proved that they weren't just a first half team.

Joe Burton (6-7, 295) was both the overwhelming force and the immovable object down in the paint. The senior posted eight points and two boards in the first 20 minutes - despite facing off against the taller Aziz N' Diaye (7-0, 260) for the lion's share of his time on the court.

Burton was the owner of 13 points, six boards and three assists on the evening – he played for a total of 28 minutes.

Devon Collier found his groove early on as well. Collier's initial burst of energy on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball gave the Beavers an opportunity to pull ahead early in the first few minutes of the game. Rebounds led to fast breaks - fast breaks led to either a deuce, or hasty fouls on behalf of the Huskies, who committed 21 personal fouls on the evening, fourteen of those in the second half.

Collier put up five rebounds, four assists and nine points in the first half, and closed out the evening with 16 points, seven boards and five assists.

An increased presence in the middle courtesy of big bodies like Collier and the recently returned Eric Moreland (12 points, 10 rebounds on the night) took some of the pressure off of Burton down in the paint, and the Beaver's offense was allowed to relax and just play ball.

Another notable factor in the Beavs' success was more consistent three point shooting – between shooting a lowly 28.6 percent from the perimeter in the first half to shooting 40 percent in the second (making for a combined 31.6 percent for the game). Olaf Schaftenaar, Roberto Nelson and Ahmad Starks hit from beyond the arc two times apiece (a combined 18 points), and no matter how you slice it, some threes are better than no threes.

Robinson attributes this win to something entirely different though…

"My favorite statistic tonight is 18 assists on 25 baskets – and when we play like that we are hard to beat."

Seven of those 18 assists came off the light hands of Roberto Nelson and Starks. Individually, Starks and Nelson had quieter games than normal, but combined the duo acted as the driving force behind this Beaver victory, at least when it came to getting the ball to the open man. Superb ball handling that controlled the clock and manipulated a mildly confused Huskies defensive strategy was the key to Robinson's boys keeping Ol' Mo on their side.

"We talk all the time about getting ourselves prepared – but once you throw the ball up, it's up to those guys (the players) to put up the effort," Robinson said. "We want to get this program to the point where there are high expectations - for the first time in a long time - the locker room put those expectations on themselves."

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