CORVALLIS — Oregon State is searching for answers right now.
Focus on the game plan, lack of effort and taking care of the ball have become major themes in what is now a four-game losing streak after a 63-58 men's basketball defeat to Fresno State on Friday night at Gill Coliseum.
In six tries, the Beavers (2-4) have yet to put together a complete game. They didn’t get it against the Bulldogs (3-2) after watching the visitors reel off a 17-2 second-half run that left OSU in a 15-point hole with 10:29 left.
Tres Tinkle did his best to carry the team, scoring a career-high 31 points, but it wasn’t enough as a late-game comeback fell short.
Beavers coach Wayne Tinkle said he doesn’t have a team that is united, rather one of too many individuals.
He’s not using youth as an excuse with a group that includes 12 players in their first or second year in the program. He points to his team being “not on page” on either end.
He also notes a lack of playing hard, which he believes leads to lack of focus to the game plan.
“We literally messed up the first play of the game out of the huddle. Literally messed it up,” the coach said. “And then multiple times we talked about our defensive coverages out of timeouts and what they were going to do. They did exactly what we told them (the Bulldogs) were going to do. But we didn’t guard it right.”
He said he has no answers as to why the team isn’t playing harder and more focused and has started games slowly. The assistant coaches are presenting the game plan and it isn’t getting through to many of the players.
“We keep saying the same things and it just keeps falling on deaf ears,” coach Tinkle said. “So if it’s important enough our guys will figure it out and get it corrected.”
OSU had 17 turnovers, 11 in the first half. FSU had 13 miscues and a 22-13 edge in points off turnovers.
The Beavers still trailed by 15 with just more than six minutes left when they mounted a comeback.
They quickly cut it to nine with six straight points. JaQuori McLaughlin’s two free throws with 4:29 left made it 55-46. Thirty seconds later, McLaughlin’s contested floated cut it to eight.
It went to seven after a Tinkle 3-pointer, to six on two Tinkle free throws and then to four at 59-55 after Kendal Manuel’s off-balance floater in the key.
Manuel got the ball off a backcourt trap after a timeout, but OSU turned the ball back over soon after.
The Bulldogs went back ahead by six on two free throws. McLaughlin’s 3-pointer with 27 seconds left trimmed it to a three-point hole, but the Beavers would get no closer.
Tinkle had 16 points at halftime and finished with 31 on 8-of-15 shooting from the floor and 13 of 15 at the free-throw line. He added 10 rebounds and a career-best six steals.
For long stretches, Tinkle was the most aggressive player in a stagnant offense. Even so, he said he has faith in his team offensively.
“I know I can score the ball so I do what I can to try to give us a run. I think it’s just part of my competitive nature to try and get something going,” he said. “Or just pass, cut … if they’re going to deny me (the ball) I’ll just cut and take myself out of the game and let everyone else score. Whatever works.”
The problem was there wasn’t much help.
McLaughlin had 12 points, the fifth double-digit effort in six games for the freshman point guard. No one else had more than four. Drew Eubanks had four points, four rebounds and five blocks.
Fresno State’s Jahmel Taylor had a game-high 21 points, 17 of which came in the first half. He made six 3-pointers, five before halftime.
Tinkle didn’t get much offensive help from his teammates in the first half.
He had 16 of OSU’s first 21 points as the Beavers jumped out to a 21-12 lead. Tinkle capped that run with six straight points.
The Bulldogs went more than nine minutes without a field goal, missing 11 shots in a row. But OSU wasn’t able to capitalize much during that stretch, outscoring the visitors 10-3.
Taylor hit three 3-pointers in the last 1:06 of the half. The final one came on a desperation shot as time expired to give Fresno State its first lead (27-26) since the game’s opening minutes.