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Oregon State guard Rickey Claitt reacts after dropping a 3-point shot during the first half of a College Basketball Invitational championship series game against Texas-El Paso in Corvallis, Ore., Monday, March 30, 2009. The CBI championship is a best-of-three series. (AP Photo/Don Ryan) - AP

Beavers take lead in the CBI

CORVALLIS — Roeland Schaftenaar had 19 points and six assists and Oregon State nearly blew a 21-point lead before holding on for a 75-69 win against Texas-El Paso in the opening game of the College Basketball Invitational's best-of-three championship series.

"Each game we still have guys getting better," said first-year Oregon State coach Craig Robinson, who took over a team that went 6-25 last year and has the Beavers at 17-17.

Randy Culpepper scored 20 points to lead UTEP (22-13).

The second game of the series is Wednesday at UTEP. The third game, if necessary, will be Friday, also in El Paso.

Oregon State scored the first nine points of the game, held a 35-29 lead at halftime and opened the second half with a 17-2 run to go ahead 52-31.

"The guys hung in there and we led the whole game," said Robinson. "We were up by 21 at one point, and I was thinking that we do not know what it is like to do this. We did get out of our game plan, and we could have collapsed, but the guys sucked it up and held on to their guts and came through. I just can't say enough."

The Miners narrowed it to three points late in the game, as Stefon Jackson scored seven points in a 10-0 run and Arnett Moultrie's dunk with 1:14 left made it 66-63 Oregon State.

"We were up early and then, for some reason, we threw the ball away a couple times," said Schaftenaar, whose team was backed by a vocal crowd of 8,029. "And then they have some great 3-point shooters and they closed the gap real quick. It's what we know for next game."

UTEP coach Tony Barbee credited Oregon State for its defensive zones and traps. UTEP had nine of its 13 turnovers in the first half.

"Their pressure, their 1-3-1 (zone), bothered us a little bit," Barbee said. "We got looks. We obviously didn't shoot it like we normally do."

Lathen Wallace added 18 points, Seth Tarver 17 and Rickey Claitt 13 for Oregon State.

Jackson had 17 points and Moultrie 16 for UTEP.

Jackson, averaging 24.6 points per game, had scored 20 or more points in 12 straight games.

UTEP entered the game in the top five in the country in free throws made and attempted, but the Miners had just nine attempts, making eight. Their previous low for attempts was 16.

The Beavers shot 26 of 43 from the floor. UTEP was 28 of 63.

"They executed well and I give them credit," said Barbee, after the Beavers shot 61 percent from the field. "They had those open looks and were able to knock them down. They had some great shots and made the plays they had to. They have been at home the past three weeks, and we have been on the road the past three weeks, it seems like. It will be interesting at our house with our crowd. I give my guys credit, I am proud of them, but they did not get it done."

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