Beavs put scare into Cal but fall short

IF OREGON STATE could consistently put together a full game out on the hardcourt, then you might really have something here. At Cal on Saturday, with the Bears a 16-point favorite and sitting atop the conference standings, it was all about the Beaver defense. But a key second half lapse led to another defeat in the loss column.

In the 65-61 loss, the Beavs made a stirring late game comeback, but they lost this game long before that.

At the outset, OSU (8-11, 2-5) didn't try to match the offensive firepower of Cal. Instead they packed the key with their zone on defense and dared Cal (13-6, 5-2) to try and beat them from the outside. Cal obliged.

And missed.

If Cal starts out hot from outside, it's probably a long afternoon for the Beavs. But if the strategy works, and it did, Cal would have a devil of a time trying to get into their flow offensively.

MEANWHILE, THE BEAVS were patient on offense. Craig Robinson shook up the starting lineup, inserting Kevin McShane and Jared Cunningham for Josh Tarver and Daniel Deane, respectively, though it wasn't long before both former starters made appearances.

Cunningham played 29 minutes however and hooped his way to 18 points, while McShane logged nine and two. At the half, OSU and Cal were deadlocked 28-28, and Oregon State had imposed their pace of play on the game.

BUT THE BEAVS lost their way defensively after the break. Cal forced the issue inside and the Beavs couldn't counter -- Cal shot 5-for-5 to start the second half to forge a 39-32 lead with 16:32 remaining. And it only got worse.

Cal pushed it to double digits with 10:30 to go and went on to lead by as many as 15 with 6:59 left on the clock.

The Beavs didn't fold. Oregon State went on a 9-0 run to close with six points and it was keyed by a renewed sense of urgency on defense, and some offensive fireworks by Calvin Haynes and Cunningham. A three point play the old fashioned way by Josh Tarver cut it to 58-55 with 1:48 left on the clock.

Haynes, who led all scorers with 25 points, brought the Beavs closer at 63-61 from the top of the key but there were only 11 ticks left on the clock. Cal hit a pair of free throws and that was that.

The Beavs host USC on Thursday, with UCLA coming to Corvallis on Jan. 30. The three game homestand comes to a close with the Ducks in town on Feb. 6.