HOOPS: Beavs pull away to even record at 5-5

LATHEN WALLACE: Led all scorers with 17 points

CRAIG ROBINSON NEEDED this one to play out like it did. Oh, it was far from perfect, but after some recent and disheartening losses, the Beavs' second year head man needed his team to put on a second-half surge -- and to cruise to a double digit victory. And that was just what the Beavs did Saturday night at home in the 76-62 win over Mississippi Valley State.

But Saturday's tilt was anything but decided after the first half.

The Beavs held a slim 28-26 lead at the break and there was a sense of 'here we go again' rippling through the pro-Beaver crowd. After all, the Beavs in the previous two games coming in had plumbed new offensive depths in a 50-44 defeat to Nebraska, and then gifted Illinois-Chicago their program's first ever win, 63-61, against a Pac-10 school.

And then the Beavs tonight in the first half shot 40 percent from the field and an ugly 55.6 percent (5-for-9) from the charity stripe. So there wasn't exactly that far-reaching sense of confidence in and around Planet Beav that there was during last season's postseason run.

Maybe Craig Robinson peeled some paint in the locker room at the half tonight. Maybe he didn't. Whatever the halftime mix, the Beavers came out a different team to start the second half.

OREGON STATE TOOK FLIGHT on an 8-0 run to begin the final 30 minutes and never looked back, stretching their lead to as many as 15 points and never letting MVSU get any kind of foothold, nor make any kind of serious run, for the rest of the night.

Lathen Wallace led all scorers with 17 points, while Seth Tarver cashed in for 15 points and eight assists.

Meanwhile, Calvin Haynes added another 15 points and Omari Johnson tripped the chord to the tune of 13 points. The Beavs also improved (somewhat) on their free-throw shooting, and most importantly got MVSU in foul trouble -- their free-throw percentage in the second half was still less than ideal at 66.7 percent but they took 21 trips to the line, converting 14 of the tries.

Oregon State shot 68.2 percent from the field in the second half, finishing the game at 54.5 percent.

IT MIGHT NOT seem that way for a team that scored 76 points on the night, but the Beavs haven't found the right pitch yet on offense.

"Our offensive identity is our defense," Johnson told the Associated Press after the game.

"Because we still need an offensive identity, we need to have our offense key off our defense," said Robinson.

THEY HAVE ONE more chance to find it and grab hold before Pac-10 play begins.

The Beavs host Fresno State on Wed., Dec. 23. The game will be televised by FSN-NW with the tip scheduled for 5:30 p.m.

Oregon State then opens with the only Pac-10 team currently ranked in the Top 25, Washington (No. 21), in Seattle on New Year's Eve. Tip-off is 7 p.m., and the conference opener for both schools can also be seen live on FSN-NW.

THE PAC-10, based on any measure, including the early non-con returns this year, is decidedly down this season.

If Oregon State can find the late season magic they displayed in the latter half of this past season, and particularly during their CBI Tourney championship run, they have a golden opportunity to do some real damage in conference play. But after 10 games, that seems a big "If..".

Because if they play as they have at times through the first 10 games this 2009-10 campaign, well, down year in the Pac-10 or not, it'll be a different story altogether for the Beavers.

Some of the answers begin to be revealed this Wednesday.

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