Oregon State Head Coach Craig Robinson sat in front of the pressroom Friday night after with a smile on his face after his team’s home opener. It was his second win of the week, he said. The first was Tuesday night, when his brother-in-law won another term as President. And while Barack Obama’s final Electoral College score of 303-206 (pending Florida’s final count) over Mitt Romney was significantly higher than the 102-83 final score that the Beavers posted on the Niagara University Purple Eagles at Gill Coliseum Friday, Robinson sympathized with the stress his brother was under. “You think about me coaching 30-something games a year, they only have two games, your first election and your second election,” Robinson said. “The pressure is immense.”
To be fair, Robinson had a scoreboard to tell him that his Beavers led this one wire-to-wire by as many as 25 points. Beaver forward Eric Moreland scored 14 points on a perfect 7-7 mark from the field and pulled down 13 boards as the Beaver’s dominated the paint on both ends of the floor. “I just let the game come to me,” Moreland said afterwards. “They’re a smaller team, so we wanted to be able to take advantage of that.” OSU pulled 52 total rebounds and scored 48 points in the paint, while limiting Niagara to just 16 points inside. Six Beavers scored in double digits, with Roberto Nelson leading all scorers with 22.
But if the lane was the Beavers’ domain, a “blue state” to continue the political metaphor, the area beyond the three-point spent much of the game as a “red state,” firmly under the control of the Niagara backcourt. The Eagles scored their first 18 points from outside, going 6-7 on three-pointers during that stretch. A Malcolm Lemmons layup off a steal with 10 minutes left in the first half was their first two-pointer of the game. By the end of the first half, the Eagles had shot nine of 16 from beyond the arc. Many of those looks were wide open as Niagara took the ball down low and drew in the defense before kicking out to a shooter like Marvin Jordan, who led the Eagles with 17 total points. “You can’t help off of a guy who’s a terrific shooter,” Robinson said. “That’s something we’re going to learn from and have to get better at.”
On the other end, the Eagles rolled out a matchup zone defense that frustrated the Beaver’s shooters early. “You guys don’t know how hard it is to play your first game of the season against somebody who plays a matchup zone,” Robinson flatly told reporters. “We kind of had to figure that out on the fly.” When they did, the Beavers spaced the floor with their post play and set up their own shooters outside, turning the “red state” their way by draining three-pointers on four consecutive possessions in a two minute stretch midway through the second half to open the lead to 25. They finished the game shooting 13 of 24 from downtown, with Ahmad Starks putting down six of them. After holding that 25-point lead for another five minutes, Robinson was able to go to his deep bench, a fact that Starks saw as a sign of a job well done for him and the other rotation players. “Everybody took care of business and we got to the century mark so [Robinson] was able to get people into the game, get some time and get the college experience.”
Robinson was pleased with his team’s performance as well. “I was really pleased with this game,” he said. “I thought our guys came out ready to play.” And with the election now over and decided, Robinson could enjoy his team’s success. “That makes this night even better.”