No. 23 Colorado sets sights on ending Oregon State's run

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The Oregon State Beavers were not even considered an NCAA Tournament bubble team when the Pac-12 Conference tournament started this week. Now they're one win away from getting an automatic bid to March Madness.

Standing in their way is are the 23rd-ranked Colorado Buffaloes, who won a thriller over the Southern California Trojans on Friday night to reach their second conference title game since joining the Pac-12 at the start of the 2011-12 season.

Colorado (22-7), the third seed in the tournament, won it during its firsts Pac-12 campaign to reach the NCAA Tournament. The Buffaloes haven't been back since 2016, but they almost certainly are headed back this year, win or lose Saturday night.

Colorado swept the two regular-season games against Oregon State, most recently a 61-57 win at Corvallis, Ore., on Feb. 20. That victory kick-started a winning streak that reached six games when D'Shawn Schwartz slammed home a put-back with 3.3 seconds left to beat the Trojans 72-70 on Friday.

The decisive play started with McKinley Wright IV missing a 3-point attempt as the shot clock wound down. However, Schwartz following with the winning dunk, and the Trojans couldn't get off a shot in the remaining time.

"(Schwartz) did his job. He crashed," Wright said. "I got a good look with about one second on the shot clock. It felt good, but I left it a little short, and he crashed and got us a big-time tip dunk."

Colorado got a scare in the first half of the game when Wright, the team leader and top scorer, took an inadvertent elbow to the head and went to the locker room. He returned later in the half and finished with a team-high 24 points.

The Beavers have been surging since the loss to Colorado. They have won five of their past six, with their only loss coming at home against in-state rival Oregon last weekend. They avenged that loss with an emphatic 75-64 win over the Ducks in the other semifinal played Friday night.

Oregon State (16-12) is playing in its first conference tournament title game since 1988 and the days of the Pac-10. It's quite a rise for a team that was picked to finish at the bottom of the conference this season but finished tied for sixth.

"We know what we're capable of, and we know we don't need other people telling us where we might end up in the league or anything," said Zach Reichle, who finished with 12 points against Oregon on Friday night. "We know what we can do, and so that's just what we're doing. We're coming out and showing it."

The Beavers held Wright to six points in the first meeting, on Feb. 8, but Colorado didn't need his scoring in a 29-point win. Wright had 21 in the Feb. 20 matchup.

Oregon State will have to stop more than Wright on Saturday night. Jeriah Horne, who hit four 3-pointers and scored 19 points Friday, has been a reliable second offensive weapon for the Buffaloes.

But the way the Beavers played against the Ducks, they're not shrinking from the big stage.

"I will tell you, we were a confident group heading into this game," Oregon State coach Wayne Tinkle said after the win over Oregon. "We were confident this wasn't going to be our last night here in Vegas."

--Field Level Media