Well, Wednesday night’s game certainly wasn’t the ending Beaver Nation was hoping for. But it shouldn’t have come as a surprise. Prior to this season, it was clear that depth and offense were going to be challenges. After all, the Beavers only returned seven scholarship players, and lost their top four scorers from last year.
However, they rebounded from that ugly exhibition loss to Western Oregon and shocked everyone by finishing 9-3 in non-conference play. They then won five of their first seven Pac-12 games — earning Coach Tinkle and them national attention. Not to take away from the Beavers’ great defense and clutch shooting, but that hot start helped mask the Beavers’ weaknesses.
Unfortunately, those weaknesses were glaring during the latter half of the season, as fatigued set in and teams figured out how to defend the Beavers. They ended up losing seven of their last eight games, despite having solid leads in most of those games. And Victor Robbins’ suspension only ramified those weaknesses. In addition to being an athletic body, he was the Beavers’ third leading scorer when he was suspended,
But overall, this season was a smashing success for the OSU program — they finished with a winning record (17-14), were dominant at Gill Coliseum (15-2), upset a top-10 team (Arizona on Jan. 11, and were unrecognizable on defense this year — in a good way! They were one of the best defensive teams in the nation.
Along the way, JUCO transfer Gary Payton II emerged as one of the best players in the conference, Malcolm Duvivier got better each game playing out of position at point guard, Jarmal Reid transformed into a completely different player from his first two seasons at OSU, etc.
And what can you say about Coach Tinkle and his staff that hasn’t already been said? They did a freakin’ amazing job getting maximum effort out of this team and more importantly, enabling the players to believe in themselves. The result? The Beavers made up for their lack of depth and talent by playing smart, within themselves (most of the time), and using relentless hustle. Simply put, they played with heart and passion — and never stopped playing hard, even when they were dead tired.
That’s why this season was just the beginning of what’s to come. The Beavers’ heralded recruiting class should address both of this season’s weaknesses — adding five new players, including scorers such as Stephen Thompson Jr. and Tres Tinkle, should provide immediate dividends. Combine that with the fact the Beavers don’t lose any seniors, and who doesn’t like the Beavers’ chances to be better next season?
It will be fun to see how the increased talent on the roster fosters competition and pushes the returning players. I don’t expect four freshmen starting alongside Payton, but some of the returnees will need to step up their games. Also, it will be interesting to see how the offense changes next season with more options.
If you’re excited, I can only imagine how excited the coaches and players are about the potential of having an even bigger season next year!
So don’t dwell on the late-season slide any longer. Celebrate this season and start looking forward to the 2015-16 season. Because I don’t know about you, but I think Gill will be the place to be… Go Beavs! (RW)