Oregon State continued its remarkable March run on Saturday afternoon by treating the once-beautiful Loyola offense like the good-looking guy from Fight Club, which is to say: left battered and beaten and failed by a higher power. With all the punches tallied, it was a 65-58 victory for the Beavers, who become the second No. 12 seed to advance this far, following the path blazed by Missouri in 2002.
The Ramblers laid brick after brick en route to 16 first-half points on 4-for-23 firing, and were buried under the heavy shame of only 16 points. It was too much to overcome, as has become tradition for Oregon State in three victories.
The Beavers suffocated Tennessee in the tournament's first 20 minutes, forcing 6-for-25 shooting and racing out to a 14-point halftime lead, only five fewer points than the Volunteers mustered. After 40 minutes the vanquished side's shooting percentage had crept up to 33 percent, but it mattered little. Facing a fierce Oklahoma State team driven by the No. 1 draft prospect in the country, Oregon State found its defensive footing yet again, holding Cade Cunningham to 6-for-20 shooting and the Cowboys to 18-for-65.
Loyola managed to find net on a third of their 54 attempts. In total, Oregon State's opponents are shooting 33.5 percent. And it feels even lower than that. There's been no rhythm, no flow, no sense of comfort. Wayne Tinkle's unit has had things on strict lockdown.
There's been just enough offensive firepower from the Beavers to capitalize. It hasn't necessarily been pretty but a combination of threes and free-throws have worked. Oregon State is shooting 39 percent from beyond the arc and is a stunning 51-for-59 from the stripe.
It seems fitting that a team picked to finish last in the Pac-12 that barely crawled into the dance is the first team through to the final eight. But the defensive numbers don't lie. And if it persists, there's no rule against this upstart winning it all.