Corvallis, OR. -- There was a slimmer of hope that the Oregon State men’s basketball team rejuvenated some kind of momentum after snapping a four-game losing streak in its five-point victory over Stanford. However, the Beavers, as they have all season long, took one step forward and two steps back after losing to an arguably inferior Cal team.
OSU (13-9, 3-7) is midway through the Pac-12 season. On the surface, the Beavers’ subpar conference record is not going to catch the attention of the NCAA Tournament committee. But the 2015-16 OSU squad found itself in a similar situation with an identical Pac-12 record. That year the Beavers managed to make the dance as a No. 7 seed because of great performances during the final stretch of the season.
The Beavers have three conference wins over Arizona, Colorado and Stanford, all teams among the top 30 in the NCAA NET rankings. But now comes a new challenge: the Oregon Ducks in the 353rd Civil War.
"It's just a blessing to be a part of [this rivalry],” said junior guard Ethan Thompson. “It's going to be a great environment to play in. I always look forward to playing games like this in front of a lot of people. There's a lot at stake."
What’s at stake is an opportunity to knock off the No. 14 ranked team in the country and earn another statement victory for the NCAA Tournament committee to take note of before Selection Sunday. The younger players on this roster understand the environment Saturday’s contest brings.
"It should be a cool experience. I was here last year just watching the game [as a recruit],” said freshman guard Jarod Lucas. “There was a reason for me to come in here and watch to hopefully see myself in this game next year. Here I am a couple days away."
"It's really good just knowing the history about [this rivalry]. Last year we beat them twice so we are feeling very confident about it,” said junior forward Alfred Hollins. “Just playing in Corvallis in general is always a good experience."
OSU has shown improvement thanks to the offensive production of freshman guard Jarod Lucas. Prior to Thursday’s win over Stanford, Lucas was shooting a mere 25.9 percent from the field in nine games away from Gill Coliseum. However, he broke his slump by recording a season-high 21 points against the Cardinal. His ability to knock down shots throughout the contest took the pressure off the Beavers’ top two scorers Tres Tinkle and Ethan Thompson.
“I think it definitely boosted my confidence and boosted my swag a little bit,” said Lucas. “My grandpa sent me videos of all my made shots when I was going through this slump so every day before I went to sleep, I made sure I was watching the ball go through the basket.”
Tip off for the 353rd Civil War is Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Gill Coliseum.