CORVALLIS, Ore. – With snow falling hard outside Gill Coliseum, Oregon State’s memorable season, which included its first 20-win campaign since 1990, came to end as the Beavers lost to Washington State, 72-55, in the semifinals of the College Basketball Invitational presented by Zebra Pen on Wednesday night.
Eric Moreland posted his third career double-double with a career-high 14 points and 11 rebounds, but the Beavers were playing without starting point guard Ahmad Starks, who fell ill prior to the tipoff. Without Starks, Oregon State struggled offensively missing his 12.1 points per game, three assists and his three-point shooting prowess against the tough Cougar defense.
“The sickness came on suddenly; we aren’t sure if it’s the flu or food poisoning,” fourth-year head coach Craig Robinson said. “He was fine at the shoot-around. I would have put him in if he could have gone, but he could barely stay on the bench.”
WSU controlled the pace of the game from start to finish, building as much as an 18-point lead in the second half. The Beavers trailed 39-29 at intermission and could only reduce the deficit to nine points twice in the second half. Ultimately the Beavers were done in by subpar shooting, converting on just 38 percent of its shots on the evening after hitting at a 65 percent clip the previous two CBI games.
OSU never led in the game, but stayed within two points in the first half until WSU pulled away in the final 6:30 of the opening period with a 20-12 spurt.
Despite the tough night from the floor, Oregon State finished the season averaging 78.9 points per game, a new program record, besting the 78.4 the 1989-90 squad averaged per contest. Defensively, the Beavers also set a new high mark with 328 steals in 2011-12, including 91 swipes from Jared Cunningham, which equals Gary Payton (1988-89) and Lester Conner (1981-82) for the second-most in a season in Oregon State history.
Cunningham scored 13 points and finished the season in 13th for career scoring at the school with 1,271 points. Mel Counts (1963) is the only junior in OSU history to score more points in his third year in Corvallis than Cunningham’s 645.
“There has been no decision made about Jared returning for his senior season,” Robinson said. “My take on it, if it’s the right decision for Jared than I’m all for it. He’s been a terrific teammate during this whole season and every time someone would ask about his future he always kept them at bay out of respect to his team and the program. I told him at the end tonight that `I hope it’s not your last game, but if it is – thank you.’”
Washington State (18-16) got a career-high 23 points from Abe Lodwick while Reggie Moore added 22. The Cougars played nearly the whole game without starting forward Brock Motum, who sprained his ankle early in the contest.
In addition to his third career double-double, Moreland also had one blocked shot in the game to set the Oregon State single-season record with 69, besting Scott Haskin’s 68 in 1991-92.
The future is extremely bright following this year’s 21-15 season, its best since winning 22 games in 1989-90, as the team may only lose senior Kevin McShane.
“It’s an exciting to think about next season,” Robinson said. “We have worked really hard to put this team together and we saw flashes this season of what we envision for the future. We have a long way to go, but I love this team’s work ethic and I think we will be competing at the top of the league next year.”