CORVALLIS, Ore. - No Jared Cunningham. No problem. The Oregon State men's basketball team opened its 2012-13 season with a convincing 102-83 win over Niagara Friday night in the regional round of the 2K Sports Classic benefiting Wounded Warrior Project.
The Beavers lost Cunningham, the team's leading scorer last season, to the NBA but didn't miss a beat on offense as six players scored in double figures to help Oregon State hit the century mark, a year after it had a school-record four 100-point games.
"There were a lot of good things and not as many bad things," Oregon State head coach Craig Robinson said. "So I was really pleased with this game. I thought our guys came out ready to play. I thought that we played such a team game; it was really nice to see. It's a very good first win."
The 102 points is the most in a game by a Beavers' team since Nov. 25, 1997 when they tied a school record with 116 points in a win over UC San Diego. Oregon State scored 101 points three times last season and 100 once.
Junior Roberto Nelson took over Cunningham's spot in the starting lineup after coming off the bench in all 36 games last season and responded with a game-high 22 points, including a career-high tying five three-pointers. He added three assists, three steals and two rebounds.
Eric Moreland started his sophomore campaign with a monster night with 14 points, 13 rebounds, five blocked shots and two assists. It's his fourth career double-double and the five blocks were just one shy of the six he had last season to equal the school record.
Junior Ahmad Starks added 18 points on a career-best six triples and tied a career high with seven rebounds, while senior Angus Brandt added 18 points and eight rebounds. Junior Devon Collier came off the bench to score 14 points with seven boards and a career-high six assists, and senior Joe Burton was the sixth OSU player in double digits with 10 points to go along with six rebounds and five assists.
The Beavers led 66-53 with 14:12 to play in the game but went on an 18-6 run to build a 25-point cushion and allow Robinson to clear his bench. Sophomore Challe Barton made a pair of free throws to give Oregon State 100 points with 1:30 left and the bench went crazy when junior Jullian Powers scored his first career points on a breakaway layup for the final team's final points.
"I am one of Jullian's biggest supporters because he goes hard and he does everything he needs to do," Nelson said. "So it's just good when you see him go out there and get a bucket for us."
The game started fast and furious as Oregon State came out firing to take a quick 10-3 lead. Niagara stayed in the game behind a barrage of three-pointers, making nine from beyond the arc in the first half, but the Beavers answered with eight of their own to hold a 53-39 margin at intermission.
"We saw that they (Niagara) weren't that big and we tried our best to get the ball down and not settle for three's," Robinson said. "They were making three's and we were trying to get the ball down low. The matchup was so quirky and they did a good job with it, that we ended up with some open shots and we happened to bang a couple ourselves. That opened it up for us down low. We think we have good size and we want to take advantage of that night in and night out even if the other team has equal size. We have good front court players."
The Beavers' touted frontline of Brandt, Burton, Moreland and Collier combined to make 24-of-34 field goal attempts with Moreland going a perfect 7-for-7.
"They are a smaller team so we wanted to take advantage of me, Joe, Angus and Devon," Moreland said. "We have a nice front court so we wanted to take advantage of that as much as we could. They were doubling down low so we kicked it back out there and we knocked down shots."
Starks and Nelson combined to make 11-of-19 shots from beyond the arc. "I think it is a sign of things to come," Starks said. "We can shoot the ball outside so it helps us stretch the defense."
The Purple Eagles never led in the game but had five players in double figures with Marvin Jordan leading the team with 17 points.
Oregon State returns to action on Sunday when it hosts New Mexico State at 6:30 p.m. in the other 2K Sports Classic regional round contest in a game that will be televised nationally on ESPNU.