CORVALLIS, Ore. – For anyone old enough to remember legendary Oregon State men’s basketball coach Ralph Miller, it was impossible not to note the historical implications of Saturday’s game between Washington and the Beavers, which could be their final matchup.
The Northwest schools began a hoops rivalry in 1904 and for 120 years, they’ve battled 312 times – the third-most games in a series in NCAA history.
The Huskies’ 67-55 victory was the unofficial start of a five-game stretch that could be labeled the “Goodbye Tour” as UW plays its final Pac-12 regular-season games against OSU, Stanford, California, Arizona State and Arizona.
The conference will be irrevocably changed after the season when Washington, Oregon, USC and UCLA head to the Big Ten, while Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah go to the Big 12 and California and Stanford found a home in the ACC.
Oregon State and Washington State, which retain control of the Pac-12, will play the next two seasons in the West Coast Conference.
A lot of the pregame chatter among spectators was about the future of the UW-OSU series, which is in limbo aside from Husky coach Mike Hopkins and Beavers coach Wayne Tinkle saying they wanted it to continue the rivalry but offering no specific plans or scheduling agreements.
The slumping Huskies had lost five of their previous seven games heading into Gill Coliseum, a venerable basketball cathedral built in 1949 that’s been the home OSU greats Gary Payton, Mel Counts, AC Green and Steve Johnson.
After a pair of close defeats – a 90-87 overtime loss last week against Washington State and Thursday’s 85-80 defeat at Oregon – the Huskies’ defense jumped on the Beavers at the start and never let OSU get comfortable on the offensive end.
Moses Wood scored on a layup on the first possession and UW led for more than 39 minutes.
Washington needed 10½ minutes to build a double-digit lead when Braxton Meah’s dunk pushed its advantage to 20-9.
The Huskies were up 29-17 when they used a 10-0 run, which included eight points from Keion Brooks Jr., to break open the first half and go up 39-17.
Oregon State began the second half with a 9-0 run that cut UW’s 42-22 halftime lead to 42-31.
Washington answered with a 14-5 spurt to regain control and go up 56-36 with 10 minutes left.
Brooks, the Pac-12 scoring leader, finished with 23 points and eight rebounds – both game highs for UW, which swept the season series against Oregon State and improved to 13-11 and 5-8 in the Pac-12.
UW’s Sahvir Wheeler added 15 points, seven assists and five rebounds to offset five turnovers while Wood had 13 points and five rebounds.
Jordan Pope led Oregon State (11-13, 3-10) with 19 points and Michael Rataj had 13.