CORVALLIS, Ore. - Roberto Nelson scored a game-high 24 points and grabbed a career-high tying eight rebounds, leading Oregon State to a clutch 76-75 victory over USC on Thursday night at Gill Coliseum.
Oregon State (12-8, 4-4 Pac-12) held the lead late in the overtime period, but after a steal and foul with time left on the clock, Pe'Shon Howard was sent to the line for two shots with just .09 left to play.
The electric crowd of 3,774 was on its feet, as Howard converted on his first free throw and showed an obvious relief as it went through the net. His second shot was a different story, as the fans and atmosphere were too much to zone out and he missed the second attempt. Oregon State came up with the rebound and held on to win in the nail-biting overtime period.
“I am normally not speechless, but I absolutely felt flabbergasted," Oregon State head coach Craig Robinson said. "I couldn’t be more proud of these guys, first of all. We played one of the worst games we’ve played and ended up winning. It almost seems like it’s not fair but it’s happened to us so many times, that I’m taking it."
After a big stop defensively late in the second half, Oregon State fired down floor, but Daniel Gomis was unable to convert on a breakaway dunk. Luckily, the Beavers came down with the offensive board and found Hallice Cooke outside, who drained a clutch shot from downtown with 53 seconds remaining and tied the contest at 72 to force overtime.
Nelson was a star for the Beavers, constantly attacking the basket and making shots from all over the floor to keep Oregon State in the game, despite trailing for much of the contest. The Santa Barbara, Calif. native 8-of-18 from the field and went 3-of-6 from beyond the arc.
Angus Brandt was a force to be reckoned with in the first half, tallying 11 of his 14 points in the opening 20 minutes of play. The big man converted on 6-of-15 shots from the floor and pulled down four rebounds for the Beavers.
Cooke played a key role in Oregon State's ability to come back and push USC (10-11, 1-7) to overtime. The freshman entered the second half with a chip on his shoulder and scored all 11 of his points in the final stanza.
The Beavers outrebounded the Trojans 47-36, which paid dividends for Oregon State's ability to chip away at the USC lead, tie the game near the end of regulation and come away with the win in overtime.
USC was led by Byron Wesley, who recorded 23 points behind a 7-of-17 shooting performance. Howard also contributed, scoring 16 points and grabbing three boards.
The Trojans were hot right out of the gate, taking command of a 9-4 lead four minutes into the contest. Nelson helped chip away at the deficit after converting on a lay-in and drilling a high-arching three at the 13:45 mark that brought Oregon State within two, 11-9.
USC was not fazed, extending its lead to 19-12 with 10:50 on the clock in the first frame. The Beavers would answer, narrowing the Trojans advantage to 21-16 after another three-ball from Nelson.
Devon Collier bullied his way in the paint and dropped in a layup to bring Oregon State within two once again, 25-23 with 6:10 remaining in the opening stanza. USC would answer on the other end with a lay-in, but Nelson wouldn't let the Trojans capitalize, converting on two free throws after drawing contact.
The Beavers made a huge defensive stand on the Trojans final possession, as Moreland blocked two shots in the final seconds to keep USC at bay.
At the intermission, the Trojans led 39-36, taking advantage of a 50 percent shooting clip (15-of-30) and converting on all eight of their shots from the charity stripe. The Beavers struggled from the line in the first frame, hitting 8-of-15 after 12 fouls from a physical USC squad.
Nelson and Brandt carried Oregon State in the opening 20 minutes of play, combining for 21 of the Beavers' first half points.
Cooke got the crowd on their feet early in the second half after he shook his defender and drilled a jumper at the top of the key, cutting the Trojans edge to one, 40-39.
Oregon State took its first lead of the closing period, 44-43, at the 17:06 mark when Langston Morris-Walker found Cooke streaking down the floor for a layup in transition.
USC would go on an 8-2 run to take control of a 51-46 advantage with 13:48 left to play in the contest.
Cooke brought the Beavers back at 11:55 by hitting a jumper and cashing in on a pair of shots from the line on the next possession, narrowing the Trojans lead to two, 53-51.
After a technical foul by Omar Oraby, Nelson was sent to the free-throw line and got both attempts to fall. Brandt followed, making 1-of-2 to trim the USC edge to 61-58 with 8:31 remaining in the game.
At the 7:32 mark Nelson converted on a crafty and-1 that kept the Beavers two points away from the lead, 63-61. Just 25 seconds later, the senior got another layup to fall, pulling Oregon State within two, 65-63.
On the next trip down court, Collier dropped in a layup to tie it all up at 65. The Beavers reclaimed the lead, 68-67, behind a deep Nelson three with 5:09 remaining.
With 1:37 left on the clock, the Beavers trailed 72-68. Collier went to the line and split a pair, which brought the game to within three.
Oregon State was able to come up with a key stop on the Trojans final offensive possession of regulation. Nelson held for the final shot, but the isolation look fell short as the buzzer sounded and the game was sent to overtime with the score knotted at 72.
Neither team was able to find the back of the net early in the overtime period, but Nelson was the first to strike with a banked-in jumper at 3:12 to put the Beavers ahead, 74-72.
Nelson showed why he is regarded as one of the best scorers in the Pac-12 conference after getting an acrobatic lay-in to drop through the tight defense of a triple team near the rim. After his clutch score, Oregon State maintained a 76-74 edge with 25 seconds left.
USC could not tie up the game from the line, falling just short as the rowdy Gill Coliseum fans played a big role in the Oregon State win in overtime.
The Beavers are set to tip-off again at Gill Coliseum on Sunday against the UCLA Bruins at 11:30 a.m. PT in a nationally televised game on ESPNU.