Oregon State takes impressive first step in the Pac-12 by beating Oregon

Wayne Tinkle is providing significant dividends less than two seasons into his OSU gig. (USATSI)

In front of the first sellout crowd at Gill Coliseum in nearly four years, Oregon State beat a blood rival and took a firm step forward in its march toward the program’s first NCAA Tournament bid in 26 years.

Now, we’re still a ways from seriously discussing this team at that place, but we can stop to shake our heads for a second here. It’s amazing but true: The Big Dance hasn’t included the Beavers since 1990. But this might be the year, as Wayne Tinkle’s team is ahead of schedule and now up to 10-2 after its 70-57 handwashing of the Oregon Ducks on Sunday night.

A significant win in many facets for the Beavs. First off, the natural high for beating Oregon, the school that considers itself big brother in the state. Secondly, getting a victory in the first game of league play after the nonconference schedule can signal viability, especially when you’re a program like Oregon State.

More to the point of that Pac-12 win. Beating Oregon on Sunday marked the first conference-opening victory for OSU since 2011 and just the third time this century that the Beavers have started Pac-12/Pac-10 play with a 1-0 record.

It’s the first win in five tries for the Beavers against the Ducks.

There was nothing small about this victory. The non-league slate provided wins against Iona, Tulsa and UC Santa Barbara. Not a lot of meat there, but a non-con strength of schedule that currently ranks 141st. Not great, but there are batches of other at-large hopefuls with much worse to their names. After all, Oregon has been ranked this season, and with it now at full strength it’s a club some think can be the most dangerous team in the league. Yet Tinkle just coached his team to a solid win over the Ducks.

It included the latest highlight-reel slam from All-American candidate Gary Payton II.

Oregon shot a measly 36 percent from the floor and couldn’t get Elgin Cook, Dylan Ennis or Jordan Bell going. OSU, on the other hand, had 29 bench points and four players with double-figure scoring outputs. Tinkle’s son, Tres, came off the bench to have a game-high 19 points.

Why has Oregon State gotten better so quickly? We’ll know more of those answers soon, because statistically this team isn’t that special on the national level. A lot of the surge can be accounted to Oregon State’s ability to win on its home floor. The Beavers are now 21-3 in Tinkle’s tenure at Gill Coliseum. If you have a quality of impregnability in your house, it goes a long way to sustaining longterm success.

Tinkle’s team has a good shot to make more national headlines, and perhaps the polls, in its next two games. Because they’re at home. Stanford comes to Corvallis on Wednesday, then Cal will play the Beavers on Saturday.

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