In the last four minus of tonight's game, the Beavers played with a confidence I haven't seen all season. There was an undeniable edge.
They were in control. Making plays with purpose. Poised. Aggressive but not sloppy. It certainly wasn't the kind of play they had all night, but they didn't blow their lead in the second half. And that's something worth noting.
The Beavers are now 2-8 in conference, this was a must-win if I've ever seen one.
If there was one player who played with the most confidence tonight, it was Joe Burton. He was fired up, at one point, shouting, screaming, hands up in the air, demanding that Olaf Schaftanaar “JUST SHOOT THE BALL!!!” He literally just kept passing it back to Olaf until he went for a three-pointer.
Burton came ever-so-close to a triple double tonight, taking home Player of the Game Honors with 17 points, 10 rebounds and 7 assists. "I didn't even know he was close," said Coach Robinson. "I'm sure people will talk about his offensive performance, but I want to point out he held Jason Washburn to one basket."
Roberto Nelson made an impressive nine of nine on free throws and led the team with 26 points.
While Challe Barton didn't seem 100% comfortable running the offense, he was making things happen, "running around and making people worry about him," according to Coach Robinson. "All he has to do is get out there and start the offense and get these guys going."
Eric Moreland was also on fire coming off the bench, with 15 rebounds and nine points.
That said, this was not an overly pretty game to watch. But hey, they cleaned it up here at Gill with just eight turnovers. They also out rebounded the Utes 41-33.
"It was the best defensive effort we'd had all season. When you're 1-8 and you want to be 2-8 you play better defense," said Robinson.
The Beavers spent the first seven minutes of the game trading baskets with the Utes until a three-pointer by Olaf Schaftenaar sent them on a ten-point run, with Challe Barton converting a 3-point play to give OSU a 22-12 lead mid-way through the half.
Then things began to slip for the Beavers, the Utes were all over Starks and Nelson, and some sloppy play by the Bears allowed Utah to creep up over the next five minutes. Fortunately for OSU, a Roberto Nelson streak of 9 made free throws put them back in a comfortable lead heading into the half, up 34-25.
Early in the second half, Burton got his sixth dime of the game on a dish to Collier for the hoop and harm. Beavers up 37-25, the biggest lead of the game.
With less than nine minutes to go Roberto dropped in a three to put OSU up 54-41.
With four minutes left in the game Nelson nailed an impressive three--ball on a pass from Burton. From that point, the Beavers never looked back.
They shouldn't look back on their season either. The second half of conference play has begun, and the Beavers should continue it with the killer instinct we all saw tonight.