January 03, 2011
Oregon State's inexplicable sudden resurgence over the weekend produced one of the best dunks of the college basketball season.
In the second half of Sunday night's game against Arizona, guard Jared Cunningham knifed down the lane, soared over a pair of flat-footed Wildcats big men and flushed home teammate Joe Burton's errant jumper with an acrobatic one-handed follow slam. It was enough to send FoxSportsNet's TV announcers into a fit of histrionics typically reserved for celebrity sightings or child birth.
The dunk was easily the signature moment from Oregon State's shocking 76-75 upset victory over an Arizona team expected to challenge Washington for first place in the conference. The Beavers also crushed Trent Lockett-less Arizona State on Thursday, meaning they're now 2-0 in the Pac-10 after a 5-6 nonconference performance that included losses to Utah Valley, Texas-Southern and Seattle.
It would be easy to label the weekend victories an aberration except Oregon State has made a habit out of this the past two seasons. In both of coach Craig Robinson's previous years, the Beavers suffered a flurry of RPI-killing head-scratching nonleague losses only to jell during the conference season and win a combined 15 Pac-10 games.
If this season follows a similar pattern, it's likely Cunningham will play a huge role in any upcoming Oregon State success.
The athletic 6-foot-4 sophomore has emerged as a go-to scorer for the Beavers the past four games, averaging 19 points per game during that stretch. Cunningham also had a key 3-point play immediately after his follow slam to help Oregon State thwart Arizona's late comeback bid.
In the wake of Cunningham's late heroics, even his coach didn't hide his enthusiasm. Robinson told reporters after the game he planned to rush home to see if Cunningham made SportsCenter's top plays.
Previous Dunk of the Year nominees: