CORVALLIS— The game ended when Spencer Dinwiddie sank a final free throw to put Colorado up 72-68.…
HOOPS: What's this, a blowout win for Beavs?
Utah guard Jarred DuBois planted a not-so-clean elbow/jab to the gut on Roberto Nelson within the first minute of the game as Nelson was making a surge toward the basket. It was not a pretty sight, and it was the catalyst behind Craig Robinson standing up and shouting an obscenity that could be heard clear into the rafters of Gill Coliseum.
"I couldn't believe that that happened, I just couldn't believe it," Robinson said. "It was the beginning of the game. But listen, if it helped fire us up that's good – I liked our response to it."
And respond they did.
Judging by how the Beavs performed after that quick hitter, it appears as if maybe a solid shot to the abdomen is one of the few things that can get this team amped up enough to play aggressive ball all night long.
They went in at the half up 34-25, and it looked like Utah was down on their luck after instituting a less than successful offensive approach that focused on shooting a lot of threes (Utah attempted ten three-point attempts in the first half, and hit on 7-20 for the night) and trying to outpace the OSU defenders.
The early DuBois jab didn't just get Nelson and Robinson fired up – it ignited a fire underneath the entire depth chart.
Guys like Ahmad Starks (four points, three assists and two boards), Eric Moreland (almost grabbed a double-double with 15 total rebounds and nine points – also notched four blocks) and Devon Collier (eight points, seven rebounds) did not have as pronounced an impact on tonight's game as they have in other bouts – but when they did contribute they sure looked good doing it.
Barton went hard for 24 minutes Wednesday night - the same amount of time his junior counterpart Starks spent on the floor – and he put up nine points. The speedy little bugger from Goteborg, Sweden was inserted into the starting lineup ahead of both Starks and Jarmal Reid on Wednesday - two players who have typically taken precedence over Barton in past games.
Robinson made it clear that when his players operate in a synchronized and methodical fashion, depth, starting roles and fatigue mean little in terms of whether or not they win a game. What really matters, according to Robinson, is leadership. Tonight, that leadership came from Nelson and Burton, especially in the last 20 minutes.
When the Beavs came out for the second half, they sputtered a bit, found a brief groove, then sputtered again. It looked like the second half would transpire the way it has since OSU began conference play – ugly.
The Beavs moved slowly through the first ten minutes of the second half. They kept their nine point lead steady, but they were visibly tired with a large chunk of time remaining on the game clock. Burton (17 points, seven rebounds and ten assists on the evening) stepped up and made some clutch rebounds, and a couple of his wonky, drunken-bear-esque sky hooks landed in the net for two, which aided in getting the crowd into the game. Nelson was an anchor for the fatigued Beavs, hitting 2-2 from the perimeter in the second half.
The junior's most important attempt for three came with just under 9 minutes remaining in the game - Nelson juked a defender, made to pass then reeled it in, sinking a trey that looked good from the moment it left his hands. That shot got the Beavs back on track and made the statement that the game wasn't going to be etched into the "L" column.
Nelson led the Beavs offensively with 26 points, handing off two assists and pulling down five defensive boards in the process. To be frank, tonight was one of Nelson's best looking games to date, despite hesitation earlier in the week from Robinson that almost kept Nelson of the court.
"I was this close to not starting him," Robinson said, making about an inch worth of space between his thumb and forefinger. "And I was this close to not playing him based on how he got kneed in the thigh in practice Monday – couldn't walk Tuesday, and today at the shoot around was still limping."
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