RICKEY CLAITT: 28 pts, 5-for-6 on three pointers
CRAIG ROBINSON SAID often this season he wanted to see Rickey Claitt be less unselfish. In the senior's final game at OSU, he got his wish. Claitt went off, scorching the nylon chord for 28 points in El Paso and nailing 5-of-6 from three point land. Roeland Schaftenaar, named the MVP of the tournament, poured in 12 points and dished seven assists as OSU finished a remarkable one season turnaround.
Led by Rickey Claitt, Oregon State (18-18) shot lights out from beyond the arc, hitting at a 63 percent clip (12-of-19) and seemingly everyone got in on the act in the 81-73 championship win.
Five different Beavers -- Lathen Wallace, Daniel Deane, Omari Johnson, Roeland Schaftenaar and Claitt -- all hit from downtown as Oregon State capped a remarkable turnaround from last year when they didn't win a single Pac-10 game. This year, they won a tournament title, finished at .500 and stunned several Pac-10 teams along the way, including Stanford thrice.
Wallace (14 points), Schaftenaar (12) and Johnson (9 pts including 2-2 from beyond the arc) all had key contributions against UTEP on Friday but it was Claitt, brimming with confidence, who stole the show in what was mostly a tight game.
A 9-0 UTEP run after a slow PSU start saw the Miners take a 14-11 lead. But the Beavs methodically worked their way back. In a role reversal from Game 2, OSU found themselves in the bonus at the 10:17 mark after UTEP's seventh team foul but it didn't matter much on the scoreboard -- UTEP was rarely whistled from then on out to the end of the half.
But what the fouls did do was to help give OSU the pace they wanted.
Oregon State held UTEP to 35.5 percent shooting in the first half and forced five turnovers. The Beavs also posited 12 bench points in the first half, while UTEP had none, as Oregon State took a 34-26 lead into the locker room.
UTEP came out on a 6-0 run to cut the lead to a deuce but just like in the first half, Oregon State weathered the storm and took back momentum. A critical juncture came when Claitt drilled a pair of treys, the last one with a hand in his face, to give OSU a 44-35 lead at the 15:55 mark.
At that stage, Claitt was 4-for-4 from the field, 3-for-3 from long range.
UTEP hit a three of their own so Claitt, the next time down the floor, with the shot clock down to three seconds, raised up from NBA 3-point range -- And buried it, again matching the Beavs' largest lead of the game to that point at 47-38.
But Oregon State went into an ultra-deliberate mode on offense, trying to use virtually all of the 35-second clock and while it put a governor on the pace of the game, the Beavers seemed to lose their offensive rhythm. UTEP, however, started to heat up and moved to within 52-50 at the 9:48 mark.
Schaftenaar stemmed the tide with a tough jump hook and Claitt's fourth triple of the second half bumped the lead back to 57-50 with 8:27 left on the clock.
THE VICTORY WAS also about the little things -- and on Friday that meant Seth Tarver.
He made a heady play off an Omari Johnson missed free throw to give the Beavs another possession. And O.J. subsequently drilled a three to give OSU a 61-52 lead with 7:17 to go. Johnson then stole the ball and UTEP committed a frustration foul to put the Beavs in the bonus, plus UTEP's head coach incurred a technical foul.
End result? Three straight points at the charity stripe and Seth Tarver again ran down the rebound off a free throw miss -- Beavs with possession and a 12-point lead with 6:42 to go in the season.
Another UTEP foul, another free throw miss by the Beavs and Seth Tarver AGAIN tipped the rebound to a Beaver teammate. That stretch by Tarver was simply huge.
Oregon State pushed the lead to 66-52 off a backdoor hoop by Claitt with 4:24 left and the game seemed all but of reach. But UTEP mounted a charge, cutting the lead to five at one point before OSU counterpunched to bump the advantage back to nine with 1:37 left in the game.
From there, Oregon State hit enough from the stripe to close out their resurgent 2008-09 season with a win and tournament title.
Claitt, who has battled back problems, was hurt at the end of the game when he ran into a screen. He was helped off the floor and had a strap around his midsection to support his back after the game. He was moving gingerly but, cradling the CBI Trophy, had a big smile on his face.