President Obama takes in holiday hoops

Published Nov. 27, 2010 12:00 a.m. ET

Oregon State coach Craig Robinson could have used one of his brother-in-law's stirring speeches after his team's lackluster first-half performance.

But with President Barack Obama busy shaking hands with fans during halftime of the Beavers' contest against Howard, Robinson did the dirty work himself, delivering some choice words to his squad.

''The message was, 'If you don't play better than you're playing, you're going to lose,' Robinson said. ''But with a little bit more colorful language, and at a higher volume.''

Oregon State (3-2) responded to Robinson's words, using a 17-2 second-half run to erase a 33-32 halftime deficit and put away pesky Howard, 84-74 on Saturday, making the Beavers' trip to D.C. a success on all fronts.

''A few things we can accomplish on a trip like this: I can get my sister and brother-in-law off my back ... and we're trying to give our guys a good experience on the court and culturally,'' Robinson said.

Obama and his family showed up right before tipoff, and both teams seemed rattled by his presence, starting the game off with a host of turnovers and missed shots. But Howard (1-5) seemed to regain its composure, using scrappy play and clutch outside shooting to surprise everyone in the sparse crowd by taking the lead into halftime.

''I was kind of shocked when I saw him,'' Howard forward Dadrian Collins said. ''I was a little nervous. This was my first time seeing him in person. We were a little too excited.''


Oregon State began to use its size and speed advantages after the break. Joe Burton and Jared Cunningham combined to score 26 second-half points as the Beavers built a 64-50 lead. Oregon State shot 60 percent in the second half as they capitalized on their interior play.

''We played more like a Pac-10 team in the second half,'' Robinson said.

Howard continued to hang around, trimming the lead to 69-63 before the Beavers closed things out over the final 2:50.

''We were battling,'' Bison coach Kevin Nickelberry said. ''And we're asking a walk-on point guard we found downstairs to go against a Pac-10 team. We were tired.''

Omari Johnson led Oregon State with 17 points and eight rebounds, while Anton Dickerson led the Bison with 24 points.

Obama showed no ill effects from the 12 stitches he received in his lower lip Friday, chatting with fans and munching on popcorn. He shook hands with the Beavers players after the game and had a few words of encouragement for Robinson.

''I'm never going to know somebody else in my life who knows the president,'' Johnson said. ''It's a great experience.''