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Friday, January 23, 2009
OSU's Robinson's emotional week


Craig Robinson and his wife, Kelly, stayed in the Lincoln bedroom Tuesday night at the White House, getting a chance to admire the original Gettysburg Address encased in glass.

For Robinson, it was hard not to get emotional or at least be in awe of his surroundings.

But he had no idea what was about to occur Thursday night in Berkeley, Calif.

When Robinson walked out onto the Haas Pavilion court for warm-ups, the Cal student section started clapping, standing and giving him a rousing ovation. The ovation spread to the rest of the fans.

"It was the most moving thing I've seen, other than Tuesday," Robinson said Friday morning, comparing the ovation to the emotion he felt watching his brother-in-law, Barack Obama, become the 44th president of the United States and his sister, Michelle, the first lady.

"It was the classiest thing I've ever seen," Robinson said. "It's by far the most emotional thing that has happened to me since Tuesday."

Robinson said he hadn't been introduced yet. He had just come out for warm-ups when the ovation started. He said Cal coach Mike Montgomery hadn't even come out from his team's locker room.

Oh, by the way, Oregon State beat Cal, 69-65, coming back from 11 points down. It was by far the best game Roeland Schaftenaar played for Robinson. Schaftenaar, a big man who can step out and shoot 3-pointers, scored 22 points going 4-of-4 from beyond the arc. "He was aggressive," Robinson said of Schaftenaar. Robinson said the Beavers' 1-3-1 zone started to frustrate the Bears in the second half. Cal still made 11 3-pointers but didn't make them at the right time.

Oregon State outscored Cal 33-22 in the second half after trailing by seven at halftime.

"We never stopped playing," Robinson said.

It's hard to underscore how surprising it is that Oregon State has two Pac-10 wins, against USC at home and at Cal no less. Oregon State didn't win a game last season in the Pac-10 under former coach Jay John, now a Cal assistant, and Kevin Mouton, who replaced John once he was fired.

Oregon State was predicted to finish last in the Pac-10 this season. Yet the Beavers are tied with Arizona at 2-5 in the league. Rival Oregon, which plays at Oregon State on Jan. 31, is winless in the first seven games.

"USC was the most surprising of the wins since I didn't think it would come so soon in the Pac-10 season and it was right after UCLA," Robinson said of the 23-point loss to the Bruins. "But to get this one was a surprise too. We were coming off our worst game against Washington [85-59 loss] and then had all these distractions. This team easily could have not played well."

Robinson coached practice Sunday, gave the team off Monday, and then the assistants ran practice Tuesday. Robinson met the team Wednesday in Berkeley for an 8-10:30 p.m. practice. So clearly, the Beavers had plenty of reasons to fail against a Cal team that's in position to challenge for the Pac-10 title.

"I'm so proud of these guys," Robinson said.

• Washington continues to look like a legitimate challenger to the Pac-10 title. The Huskies held off USC late Thursday night and this time got more scoring pop from guard Justin Dentmon. He got to the line 11 times, made all of them, then finished with 22 points. The Huskies (14-4, 5-1) host UCLA on Saturday in Seattle and have a chance to be alone in first place in the Pac-10 with a win.

• Utah State moved to 18-1 with a four-point win over San Jose State. There's no question the Aggies are the quietest 18-1 team in recent memory.

• Gonzaga and Saint Mary's are the only two ranked teams in the same conference, not from a BCS conference. That's great for the WCC, but the bottom of the league needs to catch up sooner than later so there isn't so much of a disparity.

• Boston University beat UMBC 80-77 in double overtime Thursday. John Holland scored 18 points and played 44 out of a possible 50 minutes. He played all 60 minutes, scored 29 points, in a quadruple overtime win over Stony Brook three days earlier.

• LSU coach Trent Johnson wouldn't say Saturday's game against Xavier is a must-win since the Tigers didn't win nonconference games at Utah or against Texas A&M in Houston. But he does recognize that Xavier is one of the best teams in the country and will certainly be a great win for the Tigers. LSU is on a roll offensively since scoring 59 points in an SEC-opening loss at Alabama. The Tigers have since scored 85, 83 and 81 in consecutive wins over South Carolina, at Ole Miss and Mississippi State. The big reason for the change is taking care of the ball, shot selection and overall offensive execution, especially in the first half, Johnson said.

• Alabama coach Mark Gottfried said the Tide has adjusted to life without point guard Ronald Steele, who has stopped playing basketball after suffering another injury (this time plantar fasciitis after knee injuries last season). Mikhail Torrance scored 24 in Steele's absence in a win over Ole Miss. The first two games without Steele were losses at Mississippi State and Auburn.

• Memphis coach John Calipari said he's glad he has two more nonconference games left on the schedule, beginning Saturday at Tennessee (the other is at Gonzaga Feb. 7). He said he wants to see Tyreke Evans at the point against competition outside of Conference USA after making the move last month. Calipari is fairly confident that the Tigers will get a high seed with their strength of schedule increasing with these two nonconference games.

• Was at Vermont's win over Hartford on Thursday and two things jumped out to me: one was that former Michigan State guard Maurice Joseph comes off the bench for the Catamounts and the other was how much Vermont coach Mike Lonergan discussed the NIT. Joseph is averaging 8.9 points and can be a scoring pop off the bench. But defensively he needs to tighten up to be a starter. Meanwhile, Lonergan said another huge incentive for the Catamounts to win the America East regular-season title is to get the NIT bid that goes to the regular-season champ if it doesn't win the conference tournament. He wants this team in the postseason in some form. He said the NIT rule of awarding the regular-season champs from every conference that doesn't get an NCAA bid was one of the best rules put in by the postseason event.