Loss sets up decisive Game 3 finale for Beavs

CRAIG ROBINSON

OREGON STATE CERTAINLY enjoyed a home court advantage for the first three games of the College Basketball Invitational. That was just as certainly not the case in Game 2 of the tournament finals as the Beavs lost 70-63 to UTEP on Wednesday. With the series now tied 1-1, all eyes will be on Friday's tilt in El Paso -- one game to decide it all.

For a while there, it looked like the Beavs were going to knock off UTEP in their own house on Wednesday night. They shot 50 percent in the first half, and held a 35-30 advantage headed into the locker room.

Roeland Schaftenaar was already in double figures before halftime and Lathen Wallace, while not off to as red hot a start as he was in previous games, was still hitting from outside with three three-pointers in the game's first 20 minutes.

But Oregon State tightened up in the second half and UTEP began to run more effectively against the Beaver D -- mostly a 2-3 zone instead of their base 1-3-1.

The Beavers also found themselves in a world of foul trouble in the second half.

It's something of a wonder that Oregon State was within a bucket with under a minute to play at 65-63 -- UTEP went to the free throw line 37 times on the night, Oregon State had but 11 trips. UTEP was already taking foul shots with 12 minutes to go and were in the double bonus at the 9:03 mark.

Still, Oregon State had their chances. But they went cold from the field on too many possessions in the second half, shooting 37 percent.

Schaftenaar was a target of the UTEP fans after an aggressive rebound in the first half and for the rest of the night, they booed him lustily. And it seemed to take him out of his game for a stretch in the second half, with turnovers and missed shots taking the place of his early first half sharpshooting.

The Beavs' point-forward finished with a team high 17 points but a dozen came in the first half. More instrumental in the loss was the Oregon State defense. Craig Robinson tried to change things up by giving UTEP a different look with a 2-3 zone and results were mixed.

OSU held UTEP to 30 points in the first half on 36.7 percent shooting but could not force a single turnover. Indeed, Oregon State only forced two turnovers on the entire night while they committed 11 of their own. And UTEP shot 52.2 percent in the second half.

It all sets up a decisive Game 3 on Friday in the best of three CBI Finals. Oregon State has already accomplished a remarkable hoops resurgence and turnaround this season. But if they want to finish with a .500 record and on a victorious note, they'll need to tighten up their defense and find more rhythm on offense.

Tip-off on Friday is scheduled for 7 pm PT. The game will be broadcast on HDNet.

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