Eugene, OR – The one constant thus far in Oregon’s season has been their inability to get off to good starts. That theme was repeated tonight before 11,204 fans in Eugene as Oregon State held off a late Oregon surge to escape with a 77-72 win in the Pac-12 conference opener for both teams. The Beavers’ Tres Tinkle was the difference, leading both teams with 28 points. Tinkle, who returned to the game after being briefly removed with an ankle injury, shot an efficient 9-of-15 from the field including 4-of-8 from long distance. He added eight rebounds and four assists. Louis King played his best game in a Duck uniform leading his team with 17 points and ten rebounds.
After hitting seven of their first ten shots Oregon shot 3-of-20 for the rest of the first half. Plagued by poor ball movement and lack of player movement off the ball the Ducks scored eight points over the final 12:33 of the half, which closed with Oregon State in the lead 38-25. Oregon didn’t play with much energy or effort as the Beavers had a 23-11 rebounding edge.
Oregon State extended their lead to 18 points early in the second half before Coach Dana Altman tried to change the tone of the game with full court pressure. Oregon State has not been efficient with the ball this season with their 20.2 turnover percentage ranking 245th among Division 1 teams. The press helped force 12 second half Beaver turnovers and quickly brought the Ducks back into contention. Two Louis King free throws gave them their first lead with 3:49 remaining and the game went back and forth from there. Victor Bailey Jr.’s two free throws gave Oregon their last lead (72-71) with 1:10 remaining. However those were Oregon’s last points. Payton Pritchard missed a 15-foot jumper with 32 seconds left that would have given them the lead. Then King took an ill-advised step-back three-pointer with nine seconds remaining which would have tied the game. Oregon State closed the game with six straight free throws.
Without Bol Bol and Kenny Wooten, who is out with a broken jaw, this Oregon team will struggle. They only have eight scholarship players, with two of them (Francis Okoro and Miles Norris) freshmen who were not in the rotation previously. Norris is a skilled 6-9 who shows promise, while Okoro, a muscular 6-9, helps inside and on the boards but has shown no offensive game. The Ducks need efficient scoring performances from Pritchard and King to pull out some wins until Wooten returns. Tonight they both were not efficient with King shooting 6-of-17 and Pritchard 5-of-16. Paul White played a solid game with 15 points (5-of-9) and Bailey Jr. helped with 11 points.
Oregon State isn’t the most talented team but they are experienced and that helped in this game. Besides Tinkle’s effort, Ethan Thompson (13 points) and Stephen Thompson Jr. (10 points, six assists) helped the Beavers to the win. 7-0 Kylor Kelley, who leads the nation with an 18 percent block rate, added nine points, seven rebounds and two blocks.
Next up for both teams are visits this week from USC and UCLA. After that is a trip the following week to face Arizona and Arizona State. For Oregon especially the next two home games are very important. A 1-2 or 0-3 conference start prior to the Arizona trip wouldn’t bode well.