There are no moral victories in sports. Winning is winning, losing is losing. So perhaps instead of proclaiming Portland State Men’s Basketball’s 81-76 loss to Oregon State some sort of “victory,” it’s better to label it as a loss with a silver lining.
The Pac-12 Conference regularly sends multiple teams to the NCAA Tournament, sometimes as many as five or six. It boasts two of the most storied franchises in college basketball in UCLA and Arizona. Oregon State Men’s Basketball posted a winning record overall and in conference play last season. They have one of the most productive players in the conference in Senior Tres Tinkle. The Beavers were 10-6 at home last year.
Despite all this, and a 19-point second-half deficit, the Vikings closed the game on a furious rally that pulled them within four points in the final minute. It wasn’t quite enough, but the effort displayed by PSU at Gill Coliseum showed that the Vikings were capable of hanging with a winning team from a Power 5 conference on the road.
Smaller than Oregon State at every position and once again without starting center Sal Nuh—who is recovering from an ankle sprain—the Vikings had to rely on the depth of their bench to hang right with the Beavers. The 19-point deficit in the second half could easily have been a precursor to a Pac-12 whipping of an overmatched opponent, but PSU refused to go down without a fight.
Junior guard Holland Woods scored 18 of his 23 points in the second half, leading the late-game charge. His jumper with 20 seconds remaining brought the score to 80-76, and the Vikings sent Oregon State’s Gianni Hunt to the line following the inbounds. Hunt made one of two free throws for the final margin. A pair of 3-point attempts by PSU in the final seconds were off, and the Beavers escaped. Tinkle filled up the stat sheet with 26 points, nine rebounds, seven assists, and two blocked shots for Oregon State.
The Vikings will get some much needed rest after an eight-day, four game road trip, and have only four games remaining until Big Sky play begins with Northern Colorado on December 28th. The Oregon State game marked the second time this season PSU had traveled to a Power 5 opponent and kept it close, the first being their trip to Bloomington Indiana to face the Hoosiers, who they held to a five point lead in the second half before losing 85-74.
Last season the Viking men got off to a sluggish start with a 1-5 conference record before finding their footing and finishing with a winning record in the Big Sky. This season, the early games at Power 5 opponents that PSU has kept competitive will give them the confidence for an improved start to conference play, which could manifest itself into a better overall record and more favorable seeding in the Big Sky Tournament in March.