In a week, two games, from one Saturday to the next, Oregon State went from being unbeaten and the nation's top-ranked college team, to basketball oblivion. It's pride and 26-game winning streak fell against Arizona State. State scored a 500-48 upset in the second round of the NCAA West Regional.
Kansas State, runner-up in the Big Eight Conference, led only once. But that was when it mattered most, on Rolando Blackman's 12-foot jumper from the right base line with two seconds left. A 40-foot heave by the Beavers sailed harmlessly away and the eight-loss Wildcats began celebrating.
It was the first of two two-point games in Pauley Pavilion, as Illinois edged Wyoming, 67-65, on two free throws by Mark Smith with three seconds left. Wyoming's last hope was dashed when a half-court fling by Charles Bradley, the best player in either game, hit the top of the backboard.
In the opener, Oregon State seemed firmly in control as the seccond half neared midpoint. A layup by its master of the inside twist, Steve Johnson, gave the Beavers a 42-32 lead. Best of all, the foul-prone 6-10 center had just two fouls at the time.
State refused to quit.
Slowly, on two baskets and two free throws by Johnson's Kansas counterpart, Ed Nealy, and one jumper by Blackman, the Wildcats closed within three points. Then Blackman had a layup partially blocked by Johnson -- and the Beavers ran off two quick baskets for a seven-point lead with 8:04 left.
Again State refused to quit.
And OSU began to crack. Three times it missed the first of one-and-one free-throw chances. Johnson missed two layups and -- worse -- gathered his third, fourth and fifth fouls in a four-minute span.
Oregon State made 12 field goals the first half and limited Kansas State to 13 shots. But the Wildcats crept back again, tying the game at 48 on Nealy's two free throws when Johnson fouled out with 3:23 left.For the game, Johnson made half his 10 floor shots, six of eight free throws, had six rebounds and blocked two shots.
"We were trying to force Johnson outside a bit [on defense]," said Nealy, at least three inches shorter but with a passable jump shot. "On offense, I was trying to get him to move toward the middle, where I had help."
While johnson was stumbling and missing, relative unknowns such as Tyrone Adams and Randy Reed were helping Blackman and Nealy just enough to keep the game tight. And when Charlie Sitton missed a one and one with 2:03 left, K-State played for the last shot -- and got the one it wanted.
"We always try and clear out for Rolando," Coach Jack Hartman said, "and whenever he gets the shot [inside 10 seconds] he's supposed to take it." Blackman's shot dropped cleanly through with two seconds left and the Wildcats' record moved to 23-8.
"That's why he's an all-America," said the Beavers' top defender, Lester Connor. "He had Mark [radford] and Ray [Blume] all over him."
"When we were down by three," Blackman said,"I felt we were as good as they were."