CORVALLIS — There wasn’t anything special being done from the Oregon State sideline on Sunday afternoon, no monumental wisdom coming down from coach Wayne Tinkle and his staff.
Other than switching to a zone defense, it was the players on the court answering their own call and dismantling No. 21 USC in what amounted to a must-win situation, if there is such a thing in late January.
The Beavers held the high-scoring Trojans to 30 points in the second half and got an 85-70 Pac-12 men's basketball win at Gill Coliseum in a game they needed to avoid a two-game home sweep and be buried somewhere deep in conference standings.
“It was our players,” Tinkle said. “They were the ones that drew the line in the sand and said, ‘nope, not tonight,’ and came out and made a huge response in the second half.”
OSU (12-6, 3-4) put a three-game losing streak in the rearview mirror with an improved focus defensively, holding serve on the glass and relentlessly attacking the basket after halftime to the tune of 49 points.
The Beavers also went 18 of 21 at the free-throw line after consecutive games shooting 50 percent.
With Gary Payton II and Tres Tinkle leading the way, OSU snagged the momentum after halftime and made it hard to USC (15-5, 4-3) to get it back.
“It was just being unselfish,” said Payton, who led in all ways possible with 22 points, 15 rebounds, eight assists and four steals.
“Get back to what we did before conference … sharing the ball, not caring who gets on the board or whatnot. Just worry about the win.”
Tres Tinkle added 18 points and seven rebounds, and fellow freshman Drew Eubanks had 12 points, four rebounds and three blocks in his return to the starting lineup after coming off the bench for two games.
Elijah Stewart had 16 points and nine rebounds and Katin Reinhardt 14 points for USC, which has turned around its program after going 12-20 last season.
The Beavers scored the first seven points of the second half to take a 43-40 lead.
Payton found Eubanks all alone underneath for a dunk. Tinkle blocked Reinhardt’s dunk attempt off an inbounds pass then hit a 3-pointer on the other end.
The Trojans came back to tie the game before the Beavers went on another run.
Payton stole the ball under the USC basket and then hit Tinkle for a 3-pointer on the other end to give the Beavers nine straight points and a 54-45 lead with 14:22 remaining.
The Trojans didn’t go away, chipping into the deficit with some clutch shots. But each time the Beavers had an answer, with Payton and Stevie Thompson leading the charge.
Payton followed his own miss from outside and tipped it back at the basket to give OSU a 62-54 lead with 10:55 left. Eubanks later dunked off a Payton pass to put the Beavers up 12, and the lead would get to 14.
USC closed within six at 72-66 with a 9-2 run that Julian Jacobs capped with a transition layup with 4:20 remaining.
But that’s where OSU got tough and drew the line their coach talked about.
The Beavers scored the game’s next eight points and had an 80-66 advantage after Olaf Schaftenaar’s two foul shots with 1:50 left.
Thompson finished with 11 points, eight in the second half. Eubanks had his best offensive game in the past five, making six of 12 shots.
“I just post up and if I’m open they’ll give me the ball,” Eubanks said. “That was sort of the point of emphasis (Saturday) at practice, was pounding it at them inside to begin with. But I just played off my teammates.”
OSU played its second game without senior forward Jarmal Reid, serving a minimum four-game suspension for tripping an official Jan. 17 at Utah.
Oregon State, which went nine players deep, decided to go without centers Daniel Gomis and Cheikh N’diaye in an effort to shorten the bench.
Gomis, a senior recovering from a broken hand, replaced Eubanks as a starter for two games but wasn’t effective due to foul trouble. N’diaye, a junior, has played sporadic minutes.
The Beavers went with freshman Gligorije Rakocevic as Eubanks’ backup. He had four points and five rebounds.
“I put a lot of blame on myself for trying to keep everybody happy, and you can’t do it. It’s nothing against those guys,” coach Tinkle said. “There’s been a lot of stuff going on and I haven’t done a great job, to be honest, of handling it all.
“Really a big part of that was just trying to remove some of the clutter and focus on a group. I give those guys (Gomis and N’diaye) a lot of credit for staying as positive as they did.”