750 The Game Staff
It has been a banner week for Wayne Tinkle and Oregon State men’s basketball.
Following a difficult pair of road losses at Utah and Colorado, Tinkle’s Beavers returned to Gill Coliseum and took down No. 9 Arizona 83-80 on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from Jordan Pope.
JORDAN POPE AT THE BUZZER 😱
DOWN GOES #9 ARIZONA 😨
— NCAA March Madness (@MarchMadnessMBB) January 26, 2024
The Beavers kept their momentum going with a strong 84-71 victory over Arizona State to make it a 2-0 week at home.
Tinkle joined John Canzano (3-6 p.m. on 750 The Game) and said his team is feeling much better now than they did coming out of the Mountain road trip.
“From the outhouse to the penthouse,” Tinkle joked on 750 The Game. “We weren’t feeling too good coming off of that road trip. Not that we lost. But especially Colorado, just disappointed in the lack of fight. To the guys credit, we got after them pretty good in the locker room and it was a quiet plane ride home. But the guys came in on Monday ready to go. Didn’t need any encouragement.”
Oregon State trailed Arizona by nine in the second half before taking surging to a nine-point lead of their own, only to see the Wildcats tie it with 11 seconds remaining, setting the stage for Pope’s heroics.
“It’s not good for my health,” Tinkle said of his team’s back-and-forth finish, “but they made that late run to tie it, and guys could have said well, we gave it a hell of an effort, let’s move on. But to find a way to pull that one out was just a big shot in the arm.”
Tinkle said the coaching staff had made an effort to prioritize three points of emphasis with the team, and the players have responded.
“We’ve got to execute our plan,” Tinkle said. “Coaches work hard in their scouting reports and what we need to do offensively and defensively. Bring the fight. We’ve gotten better in league, other than that road trip, we had some really good moments, we showed flashes of what we’re capable of in all the other league games. And the last one was to really share. To share it. And we’ve explained to our guys how you can share on the defensive end as much as the offensive end. And where we struggled is when the ball sticks, we want to go one on one, we put our head down, we miss open guys, it just eats at your chemistry especially when you’re as young as we are, and the frustration carries to the defensive end. And we’ve been harping on it for a while.”
Tinkle said Pope has really grown as a leader on the team when they’ve needed it the most. Overlooked out of high school, Pope was recruited most actively by Oregon State, and the decision to come to Corvallis is paying off.”
“He’s very talented,” Tinkle said of his sophomore playmaker. “People were afraid of his lack of size. But we really spent a lot of time getting to know the kid and we knew he was our kind of kid before anything else. Huge heart. Obviously he has a lot of moxy and gumption to him when that spotlight is on him to make plays.
“He was disappointed because he thought he laid an egg on the Mountain trip, and instead of sulking as a young kid might do, he came back to work on Monday and he led his team. That’s the biggest thing we’ve really coached him hard on his body language and his leadership to the rest of that young group. To his credit, the last six weeks, he’s come a long way.”
Tinkle said Pope wants to be part of what the program is building.
“He’s bought in. He wants to win. He loves Oregon State. He knows we’re in the middle of a rebuild and he wants to be a big part of that.”
The Beavers (11-9 overall, 3-6 Pac-12) are in the bottom half of the league standings, but as last week indicated, there is plenty of parity in this year’s conference that promises for an intriguing Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas on March 13-16th.
“I think there’s a lot of really good teams,” Tinkle said. “Anybody can beat anybody on any given night. I think it’s going to be a shootout. Somebody gets hot at the right time, man, it’s going to be an exciting, thrilling tournament. Obviously we have a lot to shake out here down the stretch. But it’d be great if we’re get into March and there’s five, maybe six teams that are being talked about getting in, and then if there’s a surprise winner like we did a few years ago, now you’re talking about getting six or seven teams in. I just think it’s great for the conference and bodes well for us and Washington State moving forward, to be quite honest.”
Thanks to victories in the courtroom, the Beavers and Cougars will reap the financial benefits from teams in this year’s Pac-12 Conference making and advancing in the NCAA Tournament.
As for the Beavers, Tinkle knows the job is not finished, and he continues embracing the challenge of rebuilding a nationally relevant program at Oregon State.
“We’ve dug our feet in the sand, we haven’t cut corners to rebuild this thing, we’ve had great support from the administration,” Tinkle said. “And when we have all those things and we’ve got our kinds of guys here in the program, we’ve proven we can do some incredible things, things we haven’t ever done before.”
The Beavers have their LA road trip this week with a Thursday night showdown with the UCLA Bruins followed by a Saturday visit to Bronny James and the USC Trojans.
Listen to the full interview with Wayne Tinkle at the podcast below.
John Canzano delivers the Bald Faced Truth afternoons 3-6 p.m. exclusively in Portland on 750 The Game.