2012! A Triumph Or Disappointment?
“It’s a great achievement, I don’t even think I was born when that happened … it’s great that we can get 20 wins. We gotta keep on pushing from here.” — Jared Cunningham (quote courtesy of the Statesmanjournal.com)
Cunningham’s quote above came after Oregon State beat Western Illinois in the first round of the CBI tournament, to give Oregon State its first 20 win season since the 1989-90 season.
For once, Oregon State basketball fans had something to get excited about all year, and while the Beavers didn’t quite live up to their potential throughout the season, they did attract throngs of fans to legendary Gill Coliseum.
From the high-flying dunks of Jared Cunningham, the shot blocking of Eric Moreland, or Joe Burton’s blue shoes, there’s a lot to reminisce about, as well as a lot to look forward to. So we’ll take a look at the highs, the lows, and everything in between, that defined the 2011-2012 season for the Oregon State men’s basketball team.
If only I was writing this article after they hoisted the CBI trophy; there’s always next year, I guess.
Eric Moreland – Oregon State’s most surprising player this year has to be redshirt freshman Eric Moreland. After a shoulder injury cut his 2010-11 season short, Moreland displayed the kind of all-around talent that made him such a highly touted recruit.
The forward from Missouri City, Texas proved to be a dynamic shot blocker and rebounder for the Beaver’s this year; playing in all 36 games, and starting 17 of them, Moreland put together a very impressive freshman season, breaking myriad records along the way.
Moreland finished the season with 245 rebounds, shattering the freshman record, held by Lonnie Shelton (’73-’74 season), by 41 rebounds.
Going in to the CBI match-up against Washington State, OSU’s final game, Moreland was tied with Scott Haskin for most blocks in a single season, with 68. Needing just one block to hold the record, Moreland did just that against WSU, and solidified himself as one of the best shot blockers Oregon State has ever seen, in just his freshman season.
Those 69 blocks were also good for the most blocks by an OSU freshman, beating out fellow teammate Devon Collier, by 46 blocks, who set the record the year prior.
He wasn’t just setting records in Corvallis, but was making his mark on the PAC-12 as a whole. Moreland’s average of 6.8 rebounds a game was good for fifth in the conference, to go along with best on the team.
His 1.92 blocks per game was good for first in the conference, as well as on the team, and he finished with two more blocks (69) than Colorado’s dominant shot blocker Andre Roberson (67).
With this kind of season under his belt as a freshman, Eric Moreland certainly has the OSU faithful giddy with anticipation for what he can provide during the rest of his time donning the orange and black.
Nov. 19th, 2011, Overtime win vs. Texas (100-95)
Last year when it was announced that Oregon State would be participating in the TicketCity Legends Classic, it was hard to imagine that the Beaver’s would fare very well against the top tier talent also competing, in Vanderbilt, NC State and Texas.
Saying they fared well would be an understatement as Oregon State surprised many critics, and fans alike, after a thrilling overtime victory against the Texas Longhorns.
A perennial powerhouse in the 2000’s, Texas was supposed to walk all over Oregon State, even if they had lost some key pieces from last years squad.
Unfazed by the intimidation factor, Oregon State played an astounding game behind 37 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists and a steal from junior guard Jared Cunningham. Cunningham, who shot 8-18 from the field, was an incredible 20-23 from the charity stripe to help propel Oregon State to victory.
OSU did drop the championship game to Vanderbilt, albeit on a last second Vandy jumper, but proved they could compete at a very high level, which left many fans scratching their heads once the PAC-12 schedule began.
Which leads us to the next point…
Worst Moment – 5 game conference losing streak (2/9 – 2/26)
This was a toss up between the five game conference losing streak, or just the overall performance in PAC-12 play (7-11). However, Oregon State only played two real tough games (Texas, Vanderbilt), aside from a random home blowout at the hands of Idaho, in out of conference play and were really in over their heads once PAC-12 games began.
Fighting off a two, and three, game losing streak earlier in conference play the Oregon State Beavers began the second half of PAC-12 match-ups with five straight losses.
Starting on February 9th when Washington State came to town, OSU didn’t notch a win until March 1st, against lowly Utah.
They only won one game in February, and it was against, who else, Utah. So needless to say Oregon State had a rough month of February, capped off with a 5 game losing streak just weeks before the PAC-12 tournament.
Something that wouldn’t come back to haunt them once tournament play began, but a poor tournament buffer nonetheless.
Jared Cunningham – This should come as no shock to anyone who follows Oregon State basketball. Flight was, and is, the lifeblood of Oregon State basketball and is, without a doubt, one of the top 5 basketball players to call Gill Coliseum home.
Cunningham had a solid 2011-12 campaign, led the PAC-12 in steals and steals per game (91 and 2.53 a game), was barely edged out by Brock Motum for the conference scoring title (17.9 per game to Motum’s 18.0), and was just 16 points shy of tying Mel Counts record for points by a Junior.
He also garnered selections to the PAC-12 All-Conference 1st team, and All-Defensive team, while leading the Beavers to a 21-15 season record. As mentioned earlier, the 20 wins was an accomplishment Oregon State hadn’t achieved since the ’89-’90 season.
Ahmad Starks – In his freshman season, Ahmad Starks showed glimpses of the lights out shooter he could one day become. However, acclimating to the pace of the college game was a season long adjustment for the guard out of Chicago.
Fast forward to this year and something clicked for Starks, he had become the bona fide point guard OSU had been looking for to complement Jared Cunningham.
Starks, who averaged 12.1 points per game and 1.66 steals a game, made 79 three pointers on the year, which is the most a Beaver has made in a single season since Chris Stephens made 76 in the 2003-04 season.
The 79 three pointers was also just 3 shy of the single season record (82) for three-pointers in a season, with the record being held by The Glove himself, Gary Payton (’88-’89 season).
Ahmad Starks will continue to be one of the key pieces of this Oregon State basketball team for years to come.
Kevin McShane, Jared Cunningham (possibly) – If Jared Cunningham decides to stick around for his senior year, then the loss of the only senior, Kevin McShane, won’t hurt the Beavers next year.
Averaging just 8.4 minutes a game, and starting in just one (Senior Night), McShane made each and every one of his minutes count. He may not have produced enough to earn him any more recognition than a departing senior, but the intensity Kevin brought to the court was second to none.
Designated as a walk-on prior to the 2008-09 season, McShane was never granted a scholarship until his senior season.
What McShane may have lacked as far as his game goes, he made up for in moxie and determination.
Last year, flyers were hung up all over campus asking for Gill Coliseum to be packed to the brim for the annual Civil War game with the U of O Ducks. Who hung them up? Kevin McShane.
The guy had a knack for displaying a kind of intensity and passion that was contagious. It may have been overlooked by the casual observer, but I’m sure McShane’s teammates appreciated the effort he put in game in, and game out.
End of Season Noteworthy News – What is Jared Cunningham going to do?
Over the next week, all eyes will be on Jared Cunningham and the decision he needs to make about whether or not he will enter the NBA draft.
Stay, and this team returns all of its starters and could make some real waves in not only the PAC-12, but at the national level as well.
Leave, and OSU is forced to turn the team over to a new leader, which might not be a terrible thing. Many times the team deferred to Jared Cunningham in dire situations, and could benefit from filling his void with more of a team attitude.
That’s not to say I wouldn’t love to see Flight stick around for his Senior year, but as we saw with Jacquizz Rodgers nearly two years ago, if his stock is high, and he wants to make the jump, we may very well see Cunningham bolt for the NBA.
So there you have it, the OSU men’s basketball season in a nutshell. The high’s were high and the low’s were, well you get it. In what was a very hyped season for Craig Robinson’s fourth full year at the helm, turned out to be both disappointing, and rewarding at the same time.
Notching 20+ wins for the first time since the ’89-’90 season was great for the program, but with so many losses that left Beaver Nation speechless, you have to wonder what might have been.
— Stats, recruiting info, and sources all courtesy of osubeavers.com