Oregon State saw some forgettable history playing out again in the second half Saturday afternoon and was looking for answers to help turn the tide.
It was the Beavers’ veterans, who have been through a string of tough, last-minute losses in their time with the men’s basketball program, who carried the team in the end.
Junior Stevie Thompson and redshirt sophmore Tres Tinkle combined for 13 of the team’s final 15 points and came up with some crucial defensive plays as Oregon State held off Loyola Marymount, 78-74, at Gill Coliseum.
Coupled with Drew Eubanks’ 22 points on 10-of-10 shooting, Oregon State (4-3) avoided what would have been a devastating loss after leading by 16 early in the second half.
“It was huge, because we know one of the things we’re working on this year is leadership,” said Eubanks, a junior big man who also had five rebounds and four blocks. “We’ve been here for three years now and we went through it last year where we’d take teams to the last couple minutes and not close it out. It was good to see.”
Tinkle’s stat-stuffer line included 18 points, seven rebounds, seven assists, a career-high three blocks and two steals. He had 11 of his 18 in the second half and shot 5 of 10 from the field and 8 of 11 at the free-throw line.
Thompson and younger brother Ethan Thompson had 11 points apiece.
Zafir Williams led the Lions (4-3) with 14 points and six rebounds.
OSU coach Wayne Tinkle didn’t share with his team at halftime that LMU had come back twice from double-digit deficits to get wins this season. But he asked associate head coach Kerry Rupp to fire up the team for that reason.
The Beavers led by 13 at the break and pushed it to 16 before the Lions made their comeback.
Three straight LMU 3-pointers — all from different players — cut the OSU lead to five in less than six minutes.
The Lions made 5 of 9 3s in the first eight minutes of the second. Erik Johansson’s deep ball with 11:42 remaining got the visitors within five again.
Three times, LMU got as close as two points, the last time at 67-65 on Eli Scott’s lay-in with 4:36 left.
But Oregon State didn’t fold.
Stevie Thompson and Tres Tinkle were big for the Beavers with the game on the line.
Thompson’s transition basket off a steal with 3:54 remaining made it a six-point game.
The Lions put one last scare into the home team on Jeffery McClendon’s deep 3-pointer with 2:37 left that closed the gap to three.
After LMU closed within three and had possession, Tinkle drew an offensive charge on Scott. Ethan Thompson then finished an up-and-under circus shot at the basket.
Stevie Thompson was called for a foul on a 3-point attempt by Steven Haney, who made two of three at the line. Thompson made up for his miscue with a conventional three-point play on the other end to push the lead to six.
The Lions got no closer than three from there. Tres Tinkle made six of eight foul shots in the final 4:19.
“It would have been easy for our guys to throw the towel in, thinking it’s not our night, not meant to be,” Wayne Tinkle said. “But we didn’t … made some big plays, offensively, defensively down the stretch to pull it out. A lot to learn from it.”
LMU was shooting 28.5 percent for the season on 3-pointers coming in and was 1 of 9 in the first half. The Lions made 9 of 17 in the second.
Tres Tinkle said his team lost focus for a while in the second half but found it again in crunch time.
“I think we just had to get back to executing offense,” he said. “Like Coach said, there was a stretch there, where we kind of went away from what was working.”
With Eubanks’ big day, OSU had a 48-28 scoring advantage in the paint. The Beavers were credited with a 15-0 edge in fast-break points.
Oregon State was playing its first game without sophomore guard JaQuori McLaughlin, who announced his decision to transfer for personal reasons on Friday.
With McLaughlin’s departure, coach Tinkle said the team was looking for others to step up in playmaking and taking care of the ball.
The Beavers had 16 assists and 10 turnovers, their best ratio of the season. OSU had 53 turnovers and 37 assists in their previous three games.
Saturday, Eubanks carried the Beavers early with 10 points in the first eight minutes. Seth Berger found him twice for baskets in the opening minutes.
Eubanks had two dunks — one a Tres Tinkle lob and another on a Tinkle miss — before hitting two free throws with 12:07 in the half for a 14-10 OSU lead.
The game was tied at 16-all when the Beavers took control of the game.
The Lions missed nine straight field goal attempts in a seven-plus-minute stretch in which the Beavers went 7 of 10. That led to an 18-2 OSU run, capped by Stevie Thompson’s transition basket on a long Tres Tinkle pass that made it 34-18 with 2:22 in the half.