Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Don’t look now, but the Oregon State Beavers are 4-0.
Yes, the same Oregon State team that finished 10-19 a year ago and was 42-57 through head coach Craig Robinson’s first three years on campus.
Yet the Beavers may have scored the biggest victory of Robinson’s tenure Saturday night when junior guard Jared Cunningham went for a career-high 37 points despite a split lip over the final minute as the Beavers beat perennial powerhouse Texas, 100-95 in OT, in the Legends Classic at the Izod Center.
“In our program, this is near the top,” said Robinson, whose team won the CBI in 2009 and will face No. 18 Vanderbilt Monday in the title game.
“Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t the same Texas that is ranked in the Top 10 year in and year out. This was a young Texas team, not as deep as before. And it feels like they lost 15 pros.
“So this was a big win for us this season, and one of the bigger wins for the whole program.”
Through two games, Oregon State was ranked No. 1 in the RPI, prompting one writer to joke that Robinson’s brother-in-law, President Obama, was running the RPI.
“I saw that, that was pretty funny,” Robinson said.
Despite trailing by seven points in the second half, Oregon State roared back behind Cunningham, who hit two foul shots with 8.3 seconds left in regulation to tie the game and then hit eight more foul shots in the OT when the Beavers outscored the Longhorns, 19-14.
“I might have to get some stitches. J’Covan Brown hit me in the face,” Cunningham said of the collision that left him bloodied about the mouth. “I saw the blood and was a little worried, because I didn’t want it to get on my jersey. But I wasn’t coming out. I stayed out on the court and was able to make some big plays.”
Robinson, who first recruited Cunningham during his coaching tenure at Brown, had some fun at his guard’s expense.
“Jared’s a handsome guy. He’s always worried about his looks, so I was more worried about that,” Robinson said. “I wasn’t worried about him coming out of the game. He is a warrior.”
Former St. Anthony forward Devon Collier of The Bronx was also clutch with 17 points, seven rebounds and three steals.
Oregon State can continue to make headlines Monday night when they face a Vanderbilt team that is playing without senior center Festus Ezeli but got a game-high 28 points from John Jenkins.
“This win means a lot to us,” Cunningham said. “We’ve got to come out the next game and be prepared for the next team.
“But at the end of the day, we came ready to play.”
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.