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Beavers spinning their wheels

CORVALLIS — OSU men's basketball: Building chemistry this season a challenge

Injuries have been the primary culprit in keeping the Oregon State men’s basketball team from building toward what it wants to be on the court.

They’ve also kept the Beavers (3-7) from developing chemistry they want to have, which, in turn, they hope will make them more successful.

Five players have missed a combined 24 games in the first month of the regular season. Among those, sophomore guard Stevie Thompson was out six contests with a left foot injury. Sophomore forward Tres Tinkle (broken wrist) has missed four straight games and is hoping to return for the start of Pac-12 Conference play at the end of the month.

“It’s definitely been a big challenge, not being able to play with one set group of guys for an extended period of time going into the season or even at the beginning of the season,” said Thompson, who has averaged 17 points, 5.7 rebounds and five assists in three games back.

He played the season opener against Prairie View A&M, the only game OSU has had all of its top returners from last year.

Thompson said getting back on the floor has allowed him a chance to learn more of his teammates’ tendencies.

Beavers coach Wayne Tinkle expected this team to be one with good chemistry.

Oregon State returned three of its top players off an NCAA tournament team, then added two junior college transfers and three talented freshmen expected to contribute early in their collegiate careers, if not right away.

“But I think with all the adversity that we’ve had to deal with it’s slowed that down. We’re not where we need to be, no,” Tinkle said.

Freshman power forward Ben Kone played for the first time in Sunday’s home loss to Savannah State while rehabbing from a January knee injury.

Senior center Cheikh N’diaye missed Sunday’s game with a nagging shoulder injury. Junior Keondre Dew was also out Sunday, absent due to suspension for the fourth time this season. His status is uncertain.

For the players that are available, coach Tinkle hopes this weekend’s two-game swing in Portland will be an opportunity to continue build team’s chemistry.

The Beavers play both games at Moda Center, taking on Long Beach State at 8 p.m. Friday and University of Portland at 3 p.m. Sunday.

OSU is working to end a string of seven consecutive losses to NCAA Division I teams.

“We’re definitely trying to get some wins before we get into Pac play because we need to get some momentum going,” freshman Kendal Manuel said. “We’ve won three games and that’s not good enough, especially for where we want to be at. We’re definitely trying to get those this weekend.”

Following the Portland game Sunday, Oregon State hosts Kent State next Wednesday, Dec. 21, then open Pac-12 play at home against USC on Dec. 28.

Manuel said the injuries have made it hard, because chemistry you think you’re building is suddenly gone. They’re friends, play well together and know the game, he added. It’s just a matter of getting used to each other’s abilities in order to develop a flow.

That continues this weekend.

“It’s a big chance to turn things around,” Thompson said. “Just get some wins in before conference play starts and hopefully we can carry that on to conference play.”

Savannah State forward Robert Kelly Jr., left, stops Oregon State forward Drew Eubanks (12) in the second half of their game on Sunday in Corvallis. The struggling Beavers lost in overtime. ANIBAL ORTIZ/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS