COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) — Oregon State fulfilled the request of President Barack Obama, and Maryland played the role of the patsy with the first family watching on.
With Obama sitting in the first row behind the Oregon State bench, the Beavers surprised the Terrapins 90-83 Sunday night to end Maryland’s 30-game home winning streak against non-conference opponents.
Craig Robinson is the coach of Oregon State and the brother-in-law of the President. Robinson took his team to the White House on Saturday, and during that time Obama dispensed some advice to the Beavers, who had lost at home to Coppin State before squeezing past visiting Portland.
“We always have the support of the President,” Robinson said. “Before this game, during our tour, he was admonishing the guys to make sure they started playing a little bit better because his brother-in-law is coaching the team. It was a cute thing, a fun thing to hear.”
Thus inspired, the Beavers (2-1) beat the Terrapins (1-2), who got 23 points from Dez Wells and 16 from Even Smotrycz.
Obama and the first family stayed to the end of the thrilling game. The President sat between his two daughters and was joined by Michelle Obama and Marian Robinson, the first lady’s mother.
“It was cool playing with him there,” Maryland forward Jake Layman said. “It was a good experience, but we didn’t accomplish what we wanted to do tonight.”
Coach Mark Turgeon said, “It brought out a bigger crowd. Hopefully, (Obama) was able to relax a little bit.”
Roberto Nelson scored 31 points and Devon Collier had 29 points and 11 rebounds for the Beavers, who never trailed after opening the second half with an 8-0 run.
Robinson was quick to give credit to the team’s most notable fan — the President of the United States.
“They played inspired, for him, for themselves and for Oregon State. It means a lot having him here,” said Robinson, now 4-0 with the President in attendance.
“What we’re trying to go is get him to come to some more games,” the coach said.
Wearing a long-sleeved black polo shirt and jeans, Obama received cheers and a few jeers from many in the packed house before the game as he walked behind the scorer’s table toward his front-row seat. He waved in appreciation before settling into his seat.
The appearance of the first family added a level of excitement — and security — to an otherwise ordinary matchup between two teams meeting for the first time.
Everyone entering the gates had their bags checked and was required to pass through a metal detector. This included cheerleaders, media members and team officials. Also, three policemen were stationed in front of the student section across the court from the President.
None of the attention appeared to deter Obama from enjoying a first-hand view of a sport he has long followed
“Him coming out to support us is amazing,” Collier said. “We just came out and got the victory for him. Hopefully, we didn’t stress him out too much.”
After the Beavers pulled out of a halftime tie to take a 46-38 lead, the margin reached 12 points before a 3-pointer by Layman sparked a 12-4 run that got Maryland to 61-57.
But Oregon State used a 7-0 spurt to make it 72-63, and the Beavers — especially Nelson and Collier — subsequently had an answer for every Maryland surge.
After drive by Wells made it 84-81, Nelson responded by sinking a soft jumper with 29 seconds left to clinch it.
“This just shows how good we can be,” Collier said.
The first half ended tied at 38 after Wells sank a jumper just inside the midcourt line an instant after the buzzer sounded. The shot was initially called good, and the President stared intently at the video board to catch the replay.
Nelson scored 16 in a seesaw half that featured 12 ties and eight lead changes. The Beavers went 13 for 22 (59 percent) from the field but offset that by committing 11 turnovers and allowing the Terrapins to grab 11 offensive rebounds.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)