PORTLAND — Oregon State guard Roberto Nelson was genuine when he described how impressed he was with Portland State.
"That team is good," he said earnestly. "Especially when they come out at the start and make shots like that."
The Vikings led for most of the first half before they eventually succumbed to the Beavers 79-74 on Wednesday night.
Devon Collier had 23 points and Joe Burton added 20 points and seven rebounds for the Beavers (6-2), who became the first Pac-12 team to play at the 1,500-seat Peter W. Stott Center on the Vikings' downtown Portland campus.
Former South Medford standout Michael Harthun finished with 11 points on 4-of-11 shooting for Portland State. The senior guard started 1-of-7 from the field before nailing three of his final four shots late in the second half to help the Vikings stay close.
The sellout crowd was almost evenly divided between white-clad Viking fans and orange-clad supporters of the Beavers.
"It was kind of like a rivalry game," said Nelson who had 16 points and six assists. "That's the kind of atmosphere there was."
The Beavers trailed for most of the first half before pulling away to lead by as many as 14 points in the second. Portland State rallied in the final minutes but couldn't get closer than five points.
"I told the kids — I'm not beating them up in the locker room — I thought they played well," Portland State coach Tyler Geving said.
The Vikings (1-5) have lost five straight after winning their opener against the Pacific (Ore.) Boxers back on Nov. 9. Portland's losses before the Beavers all came on the road.
The Beavers have won four of their last five games, including last Saturday's 85-54 victory over Grambling State. Their lone loss in the stretch was at then-No. 10 Kansas, 84-78.
Portland State jumped out to a surprising 12-3 lead as the Beavers struggled to get started. Oregon State didn't hit from the floor until Roberto Nelson's layup about six minutes into the game.
Michael Harvey's dunk made it 22-13 for Portland, and Oregon State coach Craig Robinson yelled across the floor to Nelson: "Roberto! Shoot the ball!"
The Beavers narrowed it to 22-21, and the Vikings missed a pair of free throws for a technical called on Robinson.
"It was so funny, because when coach got that technical we kind of picked it up," Burton said.
But truth be told, Portland State was thwarted when Oregon State went to the 1-3-1 defense.
"You just can't simulate those guys in practice," Geving said. "They're long and athletic."
A layup by Collier gave Oregon State its first lead of the game, 25-24, with 2:54 left in the first half. Burton's hook shot at the buzzer gave the Beavers a 32-26 lead at the break.
Oregon State started to pull away in the second half, going up 44-36 on Nelson's layup with 14:18 left. Collier's layup extended the lead to 59-45.
The Vikings proved tenacious, pulling to within 67-61 on Renado Parker's dunk with 2:22 left and then narrowing it 69-64 on a free throw. But Portland State couldn't get any closer than five points the rest of the way.
Parker and Lateef McMullan led the Vikings with 16 points apiece.
Portland State faces George Fox on Saturday for its final non-conference game of the season. Wednesday night's game was the first of four games at home.
The Beavers host Chicago State on Sunday.
The two teams have met 13 times, with Oregon State winning all of them. The Viks have played Oregon State more than any other Pac-12 school.
Viking assistant coach Andy McClouskey played for the Beavers under coach Ralph Miller and later served as an assistant coach for both the Oregon State men's and women's teams.