Canzano: Oregon State turns basketball arena into Upset City
Men's and women's programs on a remarkable run.
I was tempted to drive to Gill Coliseum on Sunday morning to file this piece with the dateline “UPSET CITY, Oregon” — but I’m not sure what transpired in the last five days in Corvallis should be called an upset.
On Thursday, Wayne Tinkle’s unranked team beat No. 9 Arizona by a score of 83-80. An upset on paper, for sure. But those who carefully watched the game would note that the Beavers simply out-hustled, out-worked, and out-played the team of more heralded recruits from Tucson.
It was not a fluke.
Jordan Pope hit the game-winning three-point basket. Pope told me in a 1-on-1 interview that OSU had great workouts early in the week. I asked him what it felt like to dribble up the court with time expiring, pull up in the face of a defender, and launch a successful buzzer-beating game-winner.
He said: “It definitely felt better than when I was a little kid in the driveway or in the gym by myself.”
Pope is a fun story. He played for Prolific Prep, a basketball academy in Northern California. He was overshadowed by higher-caliber recruits such as Jalen Green, Nimari Burnett, and Mouhamed Gueye. But Tinkle made a scholarship bet on Pope that paid off last season with a remarkable freshman campaign.
Surely, most of us thought, Pope would jump into the transfer portal and end up as a casualty of the times. Certainly, most expected, he’d command a lucrative NIL deal that the Beavers would struggle to match. But then, Pope did the oddest thing — he came back to Corvallis for his sophomore season.
Did he get a raise from OSU’s collective?
I’m told — yes — by involved sources.
Let’s not get carried away with this as a ‘feel-good’ story. He’s capitalizing on his market value. But Pope told me this week that OSU’s loyalty mattered, too. He had other offers but stayed true to the only school that recruited him.
“It really meant a lot for them to take a chance on me,” he told me.
The win over Arizona marked the fifth consecutive decade that the Beavers have beaten a top-10 ranked Arizona team at Gill (1980s, 90s, 00s, 10s, and 20s).
Oregon State followed the Thursday “upset” of the Wildcats by knocking the wind out of Arizona State’s sails on Saturday night. The Beavers out-rebounded ASU by a 47-26 margin. Pope scored 19 points. The sweep has re-energized Tinkle’s program. And OSU plays at UCLA and USC next week.
If that were all that happened, it would have been a great basketball weekend in Corvallis. But on Friday — sandwiched between those two men’s basketball wins — Scott Rueck’s women’s program upset No. 3 Colorado.
Again, it didn’t look like an upset.
I talked with Rueck earlier in the day on Friday. Six of his 13 players are new to the program this season. The coach told me he thought his team was channeling the same kind of vibe as his Final Four team in 2016. I nearly fell out of my chair when he said it. That team was lethal and knocked out some big-time opponents. But then, a few hours later, No. 25-ranked OSU took the court and completely dismantled the Buffaloes, looking like the better team.
“This team is very motivated,” Rueck told me before the game. “They want to be great. That’s evident in watching them and it’s evident in watching how quick they are improving.”
Is it the water?
Did the OSU basketball teams flip a switch or what?
Decide for yourself.
There’s new basketball energy afoot on OSU’s campus this week. No. 16 Utah plays Rueck’s team at Gill Coliseum on Sunday (noon).
I will not be shocked if the Beavers win that game, too.
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