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Beavers head to Vegas with momentum

Wayne Tinkle knew the task he had ahead of him when he took the job as the Oregon State men’s basketball coach in May.

Not much Pac-12-caliber talent. A generally apathetic fan base. And certainly not much depth.

Progress has been slow but steady and it’s paid off to the tune of a 3-0 record after Friday’s 55-42 home win against Oral Roberts.

The Beavers will again test how much progress they’ve made when they travel to Las Vegas for the MGM Grand Main Event.

They’ll play Oklahoma State (4-0) today and then Auburn or Tulsa (both 2-1) on Wednesday.

Tinkle fully recognizes he has a long way to go with this team this season and the program in general. “But gosh it’s nice when we take the step in the right direction,” he said.

Tinkle has his new team picking up on the defensive end. The Beavers were “dialed in more than ever” Friday, especially with the zone.

The Beavers’ three opponents are shooting a combined 42 for 138 (30.4 percent) from the field, including Oral Roberts’ 9 for 43 (20.9).

With more solid defense has come higher turnover totals for the opponent. Rice had 11, Corban 13 and Oral Roberts 20.

Tinkle liked that his team showed a physicality and toughness level he had yet to see in a game.

He saw his players diving for loose balls, and they won the second-half rebounding battle 20-12.

“That’s what we’ve got to hang our hat on, are those things ... the winning plays, the effort plays,” Tinkle said.

The coach also saw resiliency that had him feeling better about things.

The Beavers bounced back from a poor first half that saw them turn the ball over nine times and get outrebounded 20-13.

OSU scored the first 12 points after the break to lead by 10, only to see the Golden Eagles close within 3 midway through the half.

But the Beavers found another run — this time 10 straight points — and Oral Roberts didn’t threaten again.

“We could have crumbled a little bit when they made their run and they didn’t,” Tinkle said of his team.

The coach said his team got complacent after building big leads in both halves and needs to learn to keep those leads.

OSU points to its balanced scoring as another positive.

The Beavers had six players in double figures against Corban. Versus Oral Roberts, their top five scorers had between 8 and 12.

A big reason for that, Tinkle and his players say, is the fact that there are no big egos on the team.

“They put their self aside and lay everything on the line for the team,” guard Gary Payton said. “I think we have a group of guys that does that. That’s what makes this that more special.”

The schedule takes a step or two up in difficulty Monday with Oklahoma State.

The Cowboys reached the NCAA tournament last season for the second straight year and went 21-13.

“But if we grind it out defensively and on the glass, every night we’ll give ourselves a chance,” Tinkle said.