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As Washington waits, Beavers believe

3/9/2012

Oregon State had one of the Pac-12's best nonconference wins.

And it was over a middling, young Texas team in overtime in New Jersey.

But that sort of summed up the Pac-12. The league was light on nonconference wins and when its teams got into league play, beating each other up only enhanced the perception that the conference wasn’t worthy of elite status.

Well, heading into Friday night’s semifinals, Oregon State has the best win of the Pac-12 tournament too, knocking off top-seeded regular-season champ Washington 86-84 on Thursday at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

“It’s my best win ever, as a coach or as a player when I was at Princeton,’’ Oregon State coach Craig Robinson said late Thursday night by phone. “This team is starting to believe that they’re as good as we thought they were. It’s really nice to see. This is a watershed moment for these guys. Those guys on Washington are really good.’’

The Beavers (19-13) move into the Pac-12 semifinals against Arizona. Oregon State isn’t on the bubble. Arizona is probably a reach, or at least third in line for a possible bid among Washington and Cal on the at-large candidacy list.

Washington, even with the Pac-12 regular-season title, must now sweat out Selection Sunday.

The Huskies’ nonconference resume has nothing to shout about. The worst home loss -- a blowout to South Dakota State -- might look better now that the Jackrabbits won the Summit League title. But that’s still a team from the Summit going into Seattle and cleaning house.

“I’m not in there in the committee,’’ UW coach Lorenzo Romar said during the postgame news conference. “I know we haven’t won as many games as we should have in nonconference as a league. I would think the Pac-12 champion would be able to find a place in the NCAA tournament. We certainly didn’t help ourselves, but I would think we’d be able to find ourselves in there.

“But I am not on the committee. The committee, they’re meeting, and we’re kind of at the mercy of their decision.’’

As for the Beavers, their defense has tightened up in the two Pac-12 tourney games so far, coming back to beat Washington State and Washington on consecutive nights.

The offense is more than capable of beating Arizona and advancing to the title game if Jared Cunningham, Devon Collier and Ahmad Starks make sound decisions.

“These guys are starting to trust each other,’’ Robinson said. “We were hoping that we could play well in the first game. The way we started to come out I thought we could win.’’

In their one meeting this season, Arizona beat Oregon State in overtime in Tucson. There was a minor scuffle at the end of the game. But there is too much on the line in this one to expect any carryover to Friday.

“I like the fact that we lost to them in overtime,’’ Robinson said. “That bodes well for us psychologically. I like our offense. We haven’t had trouble scoring in either game. But it will come down to whether or not we defend well.’’

Oregon State looked like it had floundered a few weeks ago, losing five in a row. But the Beavers then rallied to sweep a homestand with Utah and Colorado heading into the 8-9 game against the Cougars.

“That gave us some momentum,’’ Robinson said. “You sometimes see with veteran teams they’ll play well in a tournament, but we’re doing it with a bunch of freshmen and sophomores and it took them a little while to figure it all out.’’