BURTON: A Double-Double with 14 and 10
PUSHED TO THE BRINK, Oregon State responded over the final six minutes in the Pac-12 tournament quarterfinals. Down seven, the Beavs chipped away until Ahmed Starks drilled a trey and Jared Cunningham hit a layup. Then, it was hold on time. In the end, Oregon State became the first No. 9 seed to knock off a No. 1 in Pac-12/10 tourney history, upsetting Washington 86-84.
This one had more ups and downs than a bobber on a stocked trout pond. Oregon State and UW played even for much of the first half -- it was 24-24 with 6:14 left on a Devon Collier putback.
The Huskies seemed content to bomb away from three-point land (and miss) and let all-everything freshman Tony Wroten make drive after drive.
Then Ahmad Starks took over.
(Wroten, by the way had a career-high 29 points in the highest-scoring performance by a Washington freshman. But what he'll remember most about this game will be his last four free throw attempts. More on that later.)
Starks hit three dead-eye treys, part of a 24-9 Beaver run to close out the half and send OSU into the locker room with a 46-33 lead.
The threes were big, but so was the work done inside by Oregon State against an uninspired Husky defense. Jared Cunningham had no such problem. After a difficult, 4-point outing the night before against WSU, he was aggressive on the offensive end, finishing with 18 points.
OSU extended their lead to 15 shortly into the second half.
And then the wheels fell off.
THE HUSKIES CAME roaring back. Now they were hitting those threes. And explosive as Washington is, it didn't take long to erase every last bit of the 15-point margin OSU had built up. And UW didn't stop there.
Their defense suddenly came alive. They kept hitting shots, near and far. And with 8:19 to go, Oregon State had gone from a 15-point lead to looking up at a 66-58 deficit.
So here they were again, just like the night before, pushed to the edge of the abyss. If UW puts another five points in a row up on the board, it's all but lost. If OSU can claw back, just a little bit, they'd give themselves a chance down the stretch.
What happened, was the latter.
Collier started the comeback in the paint, and then connected on another. Angus Brandt hit a big three. Cunningham made a couple free throws.
Washington kept pace for a while but then began to falter. When Starks drilled another three-pointer, his fourth and last of the night, it cut the UW lead to 83-82.
From that point, it was mostly a free throw contest and both Cunningham and Wroten felt the pressure. In the last 30 seconds, they went a combined 2-9 from the charity stripe. The two that were made? That was the margin of victory, and came off the hand of Cunningham with 6.2 seconds left.
Wroten was errant on his last four free throws but credit should be given as he had hit 9-11 from the line before the misses. He was a 58 percent FT shooter coming into the game.
In the end, OSU surrendered another big lead. And once again, when all seemed lost, the Beavs found a way.
Five Beavs scored in double figures -- Collier (19), Cunningham (18), Joe Burton (14), Starks (13 and Eric Moreland (13).
Moreland, by the way, is known for his defense, and he made his usual assortment of strong plays from that end of the court. But his moves on the offensive end were at times dazzling. He's fast becoming one to watch in the conference.
Burton was also huge, with a night that included 10 boards, 5-of-8 shooting from the floor and a perfect 4-4 mark from the line.
It was enough to make BeavGreats Gary Payton and A.C. Green, sitting courtside, leap out of their seats down the stretch. Payton in particular was exhorting the Beavs to play defense after they took the lead for the final time.
TWO DOWN, TWO to go. And it only gets tougher, this attempt to win four games in four days. The third game is when fatigue can really start to set in. The first two games, basketballers can get by on adrenaline. Three is a stretch.
OSU may have to rely more on their bench from here on out than they have previously. Roberto Nelson may be one to watch in that regard. He played only one minute on Thursday.
OSU next plays Arizona in the semis, the No. 4 Wildcats having ousted from the tournament No. 5 UCLA, 66-58. Tip off is Friday night at 6 p.m. on FSN.