Corvallis, Ore. -- Oregon State men's basketball opened the conference season with their first win in Eugene since 2012, and then followed that up with the first 2-0 Pac-12 start since 2011. The Beavers nearly went wire-to-wire with USC, but fought off a furious Trojan comeback, managing a 79-74 win in Gil Coliseum.
The night belonged to senior guard Stephen Thompson Jr., who finished his night with 34 points on 11-19 shooting along with 10 rebounds and 5 assists. And the Beavers needed it too. Senior forward Tres Tinkle was ruled out shortly before tip-off of the game, so offense would have to be found in other spots on the floor. Oregon State's 'Big G', Gligorije Rakocevic, was one of those spots. The center finished with 10 points and 3 rebounds.
In the second half, the Beavers led by as many as seven points, but USC slowly chipped away. In fact, OSU only had one basket in the final six minutes, allowing the Trojans to take a 66-64 lead with under two minutes to play. But a block from Kylor Kelly on Rakocevic's cousin, USC forward Nick Rakocevic, kept the deficit at two. With 18 seconds left, Ethan Thompson cleaned up a rebound from a missed Warren Washington layup, and put it away to tie the game. The Trojans had one last chance at the end, but couldn't connect on a long three and the game went to overtime.
It was in that third period of extra basketball that Thompson Jr. got some help. Antoine Vernon hit two critical free throws with 2:59 left to put the Beavers up big, and then it was the local boy Kelly who made several huge plays down the stretch. With the Beavers up 76-74 and only 18 seconds left on the clock, the former NCU Beacon and former Lane Titan got in the lane and blocked a would-be game tying shot from Kevin Porter Jr.. The ball was corralled by Thompson Jr., who went to the line for his 33rd and 34th points of the game. Kelly would later corrall the last two missed shots by USC, effectively ending the game in the last 15 seconds.
The Beavers take on UCLA at home on Sunday, January 13th at 7 pm.
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