Oregon State is taking no solace in losing so many close games this season.
Coach Wayne Tinkle has no interest in moral victories, of which the Beavers could have amounted a serious stack by now, and his players are following suit.
OSU (11-9, 3-5) heads into Thursday night’s Pac-12 men’s basketball game at Stanford (11-11, 5-4) with all nine of its defeats decided by single digits and a combined 49 points.
“Every loss pretty much feels the same,” senior forward Seth Berger said, adding that there’s no difference whether the margin is two or 20.
Finishing games and playing a complete 40 minutes are goals that have largely escaped the Beavers this season.
It’s primarily been the final 10 minutes of the contest where Oregon State’s fortunes have turned despite often producing a solid defensive effort to that point.
“It’s right there for us,” sophomore forward Tres Tinkle said. “We’ve shown that we can be in every single game. Now it just comes down to us to finish.”
The latest defeat – 66-57 at Oregon last Saturday — was unlike the others.
In the first eight contests, the Beavers had a second-half lead, ranging anywhere from four to 13 points. In only one (at Arizona State) did OSU still have the advantage with less than five minutes remaining.
In Eugene, the Beavers saw the game get away from them in the first half. They trailed by as many as 21 and then 16 at halftime. They got no closer than eight points after the break.
So many close losses have challenged the team’s resiliency and maturity.
The team has gone through plenty in the last 15 months.
There was last year’s demoralizing 5-27 record, with just two wins from December on. Then, during a basketball tour in August, many on the team witnessed a terrorist attack in Barcelona, Spain, in which a man drove a van down a bustling tourist area and into pedestrians, killing 13. The incident hit the team hard.
Oregon State returned home believing it was a stronger and more unified unit.
Dealing with four tough losses in the past three weeks has tested the Beavers’ bounce-back ability.
There’s still time to turn the season around, with 10 conference games remaining. But the schedule doesn’t stop for regrouping.
“We’re right there. But … we don’t want to say that all the way through March,” coach Tinkle said. “We want to make sure we flip that around, and we’re close. We’ve got to be confident, but also we need to be tough enough to learn and improve in the areas that we haven’t. We’re kind of repeating the same things over and over.”
OSU heads out of Corvallis looking to return to the defensive form that has put the Beavers in position to win. They’ll also try to solve their woes and end a 17-game road losing streak, 12 of which have come in Pac-12 play.
“It always feels like we’re really close,” said junior forward Drew Eubanks. “I still think we are. It’s just little things. I think once we get over those little things it will really take off.”
With the team going on the road, the OSU staff posted a graphic in the locker room and around the practice facility this week noting the team’s defensive success against the top four scoring teams in the conference — Arizona State, UCLA, Arizona and Oregon.
The Beavers have faced three of those teams away from home and held all four well below their season scoring and field goal percentage averages.
OSU leads the Pac-12 in scoring defense (66.1 points) and field goal percentage defense (41.4) on conference games.
“But we’re not shooting the ball well,” said coach Tinkle, whose team is 11th in scoring (67.1) and 10th in shooting (43.8). “Guys aren’t doing a good enough job getting themselves in position to get shots, get the ball. So it’s a combination.”
OSU, which has lost four of its last five, moves forward feeling that it only takes one game to regain some positive momentum.
That will taking figuring out how to play better with games on the line.
Tres Tinkle believes the trouble in recent games has been a lack of patience and poise, with individuals trying to do too much.
“I think we all want to do our own thing to help the team at times,” he said. “Just because we have a whole bunch of playmakers on the team. We want to kind of be the guy that gives us the spark. We’ve just got to go with what’s working.”