Olaf Schaftenaar was making the first start of his career Saturday for Oregon State after averaging 4.0 points and 1.2 rebounds per game off the bench to begin the year. But before his day against Cal could officially start, he made a mistake.
In pregame layup lines, Schaftenaar dunked which, as harmless as it may sound, is a technical foul. Cal’s Allen Crabbe was given two free throws and he hit one of two. That made the score 1-0 when the game tipped off moments later.
For much of the game, the miscue did not seem to matter. Cal led by nine points at halftime and pushed the lead to as much as 13 in the second half. But then the Beavers came back.
Ahmad Starks and Joe Burton led an Oregon State comeback that gave the Beavers a chance to win, down 60-59 with possession of the ball and four seconds remaining. OSU inbounded to Starks, who had to dribble the length of the floor and fire a three from the left wing that was no good. One point loss, 60-59.
Is it entirely Schaftenaar’s fault? Of course not. There are too many factors going into a basketball game to pinpoint a small pregame technical and make it the scapegoat. Oregon State could have just as easily converted one more free throw (15-of-23 on the night) and hypothetically tied the game, as well.
But it is the type of play that underscores the problem. It was a small mistake that could have determined the outcome and a series of those does not help a team that finds itself 3-12 in the Pac-12. The accumulation of these small mistakes could have turned the tide in previous three-point losses to Cal and Washington State, as well as one-point losses to USC and Towson.
It’s all theoretical, but it could mean the difference between the bottom of the conference and an NIT berth.