The first half was a struggle for the Oregon State men’s basketball team.
Chicago State came into Corvallis on Sunday afternoon, took Ralph Miller Court with no fear and was giving the Beavers fits.
Someone had to step up.
Roberto Nelson did just that. He scored 22 points after the break, tied his career best of 34 and gave the Beavers the boost they were looking for to take an 87-77 nonconference win.
He set the mark two seasons ago at Arizona State when the Beavers went with six players after the others were benched for curfew violation.
Nelson was 10 of 14 from the field, hit six 3-pointers and was 8 of 12 from the free-throw line.
The Beavers needed every point they could muster against the Cougars.
Nelson and Devon Collier were the only OSU players in double figures for the game. Collier finished with 25. No one else had more than seven and Ahmad Starks went scoreless.
“It was great that he had a career day and we needed somebody to step up there and Roberto answered the challenge,” coach Craig Robinson said. “I know at halftime I really got into the guys about being prepared and stepping up for each other when guys aren’t playing well and Roberto came out in that second half and he was just tremendous and we needed every single point.”
Nelson matched his career mark when he hit two free throws with nine seconds left.
He said he wasn’t aware of how close he was getting to the mark as he neared 34.
“I had no idea. I was just trying to go out there and convert on some free throws that I was shooting and just trying to build on the lead,”
Nelson said. “The guys did a great job, they were penetrating a lot and they had to help on them because we had a lot of players that were driving to the basket and I got a lot of wide open shots today.”
Robinson agreed that the Beavers’ post play has been strong and in turn has made the inside-out game easier for the guards, but credited Nelson for showing his ability.
“I think what he’s doing is instead of trying to dictate the game, he’s letting the game come to him,” Robinson said. “He’s a terrific basketball player and the really good players just react to what’s going on out there.”
Collier was sore after the game. He took a nasty tumble after getting fouled on a dunk. He tried to hold onto the rim but slipped off and flipped to the floor. He said he had painful back spasms.
The Beavers managed a 44-36 lead at the half but spent most of it making up for a slow start. Collier pushed the Beavers forward with 15 points.
Robinson was not pleased with the effort.
“I don’t think we played very well, particularly in the first half and I’ll take the blame for that,” he said. “I’ve got to get our team more ready to play at the beginning of the game. I thought we were a little too careless, a little too lackadaisacal at the beginning of the game.”
Nelson hit three 3s and scored 16 of OSU’s first 24 points in the second half as the Beavers eventually built a 23-point lead with 7:55 to go.
The Cougars chewed away at the gap as Robinson went deeper into his bench. A 3-pointer with three seconds left cut it to 10.
“They just pressure the whole game. That’s a good team out there,”
Nelson said. “We came and played hard, so we’ve got to give them a lot of credit. But we’ve just got to come out from the start and just be ready to play because a lot of teams, especially teams like that who want to make a name for themselves and beat a Pac-12 school, we’ve got to come out and grind from the beginning because they’re coming to try to get a win, especially in an away game.”