Updated March 14, 2021 - 7:41 am
Somewhere underneath the downpour of orange and black confetti inside T-Mobile Arena on Saturday night, Oregon State basketball coach Wayne Tinkle was celebrating. With his players. His coaches.
Anyone close by.
“I felt like I was in a wind tunnel,” he said with a net draped around his neck.
Oregon State completed its perfect Pac-12 tournament run Saturday night with a 70-68 victory over Colorado. The Beavers were picked to finish last in a preseason poll by media that covers the conference, but will earn the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Colorado, the No. 3 seed ranked No. 23 in the country, will hope for an at-large bid. The Beavers, on the other hand, will play in the Big Dance for the first time since 2016.
“I haven’t gotten that many hugs since we had a family reunion,” Tinkle said. “It was pretty incredible, and a lot of people deserve credit for what we’re going through right now.”
The Beavers (17-12) arrived in Las Vegas as the No. 5 seed in the Pac-12 tournament, having worked their way to a 10-10 league record despite losing all-time leading scorer Tres Tinkle to graduation. Still, they’d need to win the tournament to qualify for the NCAA tournament.
A lofty task for a program that hadn’t reached the Pac-12 championship game since 1988.
But the best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time, and the best way to win a tournament for the first time in program history is with, well, one win at a time. The Beavers overcame a 16-point deficit to eke out an 83-79 overtime win over fourth-seeded UCLA on Thursday. Then they rolled to a 75-64 win Friday over regular-season champion Oregon.
All to set up another showdown with the Buffaloes (22-8), to whom they lost to twice during the regular season — once by a score of 78-49.
But those previous meetings didn’t seem to matter Saturday. Neither did that preseason poll. These Beavers were buoyed in the backcourt by all-tournament honorees Ethan Thompson and Jarod Lucas, and in the frontcourt by most outstanding player Warith Alatishe, who averaged 14 points and 9.7 rebounds in three tournament games.
These Beavers move the ball, passing up good shots for great shots. These Beavers defend, especially the 3-point line — holding all three opponents to 31.6 percent shooting or worse.
These Beavers dance. On the court inside T-Mobile Arena in celebration — and in the NCAA Tournament.
Junior forward Maurice Calloo came off the bench to score a team-high 15. Lucas, a sophomore guard, scored 14 and sophomore reserve guard Gianni Hunt scored 10.
Oregon State seized the lead 3:46 into the first half and trailed only for 62 seconds during the rest of the game.
“I’ve been dreaming about this since I was a little kid,” Calloo said. “Words can’t explain this. … When we stick together, we can achieve anything.”