Career Nights, Highlight Dunks Aplenty In Beavers Rout
Dec. 16, 2011
CORVALLIS, Ore. - It was night of career-highs and highlight dunks Thursday at Gill Coliseum as Oregon State turned in its second impressive performance in a week, throttling the Howard Bison 93-72 in front of 4,189 fans.
Sophomore guard Ahmad Starks had personal bests of 22 points and five three-point field goals, junior forward Angus Brandt made 9-of-11 shots on his way to a career-high 21 points and sophomore guard Roberto Nelson added a season-high 20 points on 7-of-12 from the field. It was the first time Oregon State has had three players score at least 20 points in the same game since Dec. 4, 2004 against Colorado.
Junior Jared Cunningham had a reverse alley-oop dunk in the first half on a pass from junior Joe Burton that had people on Twitter comparing it to last season's "Kiss the Sky" dunk. Cunningham returned the favor in the second half after a pass from Starks when he tossed up an alley-oop to sophomore Devon Collier for a thunder dunk (see both dunks at the bottom of this story).
"That is like when I go to an NBA game and I am looking up at the stats and I am thinking 'wow, it is hard to lose when three players have 20 points or more.' I am sure that I haven't had three guys with 20 points in all my years of coaching, assistant or head coach," Oregon State head coach Craig Robinson said. "I can't even remember playing in a game where three players had 20 points. That was a big deal and I didn't realize it until the very end when I was trying to decide who to take out and when, then I looked up at the scoreboard and thought 'oh my goodness.' That is a good problem to have. If we can have that kind of production, along with the defense that we are playing, that makes a coach sleep easier at night."
In addition, Cunningham had a career-high six assists, Nelson corralled a personal-best eight rebounds and senior forward Kevin McShane tied his career-high with six points.
The Beavers (8-2) are off to their best start in 14 years and have scored 90 or more points four times this season, the first time they have accomplished that feat since 1991-92. Oregon State had only scored 90 or more points twice in the past six seasons before this year.
"I think that basketball is a momentum game, so anytime you can get it, you want to try and ride it," Robinson said. "I am not a surfer, but you know you just wait for your good waves and then you ride it. So if we can find a steal or a blocked shot, we try to convert that and use that to play better defense. It's not a secret; I think a lot of people do that when they are coaching. Basketball is such a psychological game, so when you get some momentum and you can get your momentum and your crowd behind you it is really nice. Having 4,100 people here a week after exams, a week before Christmas and on a Thursday night, I can't remember the four years I have been here, that we have had that many people here during this time."
The Bison (3-8) never had the lead and the game was tied only once, early at 2-2. Howard kept the contest close trailing 21-16 at the 9:48 mark of the first half before the Beavers went on a 14-2 run over the next 4:20 to put the game away. Oregon State took a 49-30 lead into the locker room at halftime and had made 5-of-9 three-point tries.
Oregon State pushed the lead to as many as 36 points in the second half at 90-54 when Starks hit a three at the 5:02 mark. The Beavers upped their record to 15-1 under fourth-year head coach Craig Robinson when the team scores 80-plus points. The Beavers are among the leaders for scoring and field goal percentage in the Pac-12 Conference and shot nearly 52 percent Thursday night.
"I was really pleased with the way that we just came out and played defense," Robinson said. "We never stopped, even when they came out and got a couple of threes early. Our defense has turned into our identity and that is really fun. That is one thing of note, the second thing of note is that getting into the second half has always been a chore, and to see us be able to come out and jump right on top of them and increase that lead, was really nice. For us to come out and have a good start in the second half was really nice."
Cunningham was asked after the game if he will watch ESPN tonight to see if his dunk makes the SportsCenter Top 10. He said he doesn't have cable but "my teammate Ahmad, who lives right above me has cable, so after this I just might go sit on his couch and watch the highlights."
Oregon State concludes its five-game-homestand on Sunday when it hosts the Portland State Vikings at 7 p.m. at Gill Coliseum in a game that will be televised on ROOT Sports.
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