CORVALLIS, Ore. (AP) — Oregon State wanted to end its non-league schedule on a positive note and create some momentum heading into Pac-12 Conference play, said forward Tres Tinkle.
Mission accomplished, thanks to some hard-nosed effort on the defensive end.
“We really made it a focal point to go out and pressure the ball,” Tinkle said.
Kylor Kelley scored 14 points, all before halftime, grabbed eight boards and had four blocks as Oregon State dominated early and cruised to an 80-59 win over Central Connecticut on Saturday night.
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Tinkle added 20 points and eight rebounds and Stephen Thompson Jr. had 17 points for the Beavers (8-4).
“I thought the defensive intensity was incredible,” Oregon State coach Wayne Tinkle said.
“It’s funny how when you guard your tail off and get stops, how that allows you to free your mind up offensively,” he added.
Jamir Coleman had 16 points and seven rebounds and Karrington Wallace added nine points and six rebounds for the Blue Devils (6-7).
“I don’t think we came out with the effort that we should have,” Central Connecticut coach Donyell Marshall said.
“You can’t just come out here and play individual basketball. You have to play as a team when you’re playing a team that’s bigger and stronger,” Marshall added.
The Beavers shot 49 percent, compared to 33 percent for the Blue Devils, and outrebounded Central Connecticut 47-28.
Oregon State took control of the game with an early 24-0 surge, capped by a Thompson-to-Kelley alley-oop at the 5:52 mark, to take a 36-10 lead. Central Connecticut missed 14 straight shots during the run.
The Beavers led 50-21 at the break, and led by more than 20 the rest of the game.
Central Connecticut: Kohl, the team’s leading scorer, was coming off a 33-point outburst on just 12 shots in a 93-90 double overtime win over Maine. But he struggled on Saturday, scoring five points on 2-for-13 shooting.
Oregon State: Thompson bounced back from a dreadful 1-16 night in the Beavers’ home loss to Kent State on Dec. 21. He shot 8 for 15 from the floor on Saturday. . Kelley, who came into the game leading the nation with 4.1 blocks per game, was a perfect 6 for 6 on field goals. He made 2 of 3 free throws.
BIG G RETURNS
Oregon State’s muscle in the middle, Gligorije Rakocevic, returned after missing five games with a stress fracture in his left foot. But “Big G,” who began the season as the Beavers’ starting center, will almost surely be coming off the bench due to Kelley’s emergence in his absence. Rakocevic had zero points and one rebound in eight minutes on Saturday, but Wayne Tinkle was thrilled that he returned, pointing out that the Beavers had two wins and three losses without him. “We missed his presence, we missed his leadership, we missed his voice,” Tinkle said.
Central Connecticut hosts Wagner to open Northeast Conference play on Thursday.
Oregon State opens Pac-12 play at Oregon on Jan. 5.