Arizona Wildcats fans rejoiced when Tres Tinkle was ejected with 13:17 left in the second half, jeering him as he ducked into the tunnel and made the lonely walk to Beavers’ locker room.
The Oregon State senior had just elbowed UA guard Jemarl Baker Jr. in the face while driving to the basket, enough to earn him his second technical foul after he picked one up in the first half after getting tangled up with Christian Koloko.
Already down 13 and now with its best player out for the game, Oregon State’s chances of securing a comeback win were all but gone.
Still, Arizona coach Sean Miller called the ejection an “unfortunate” way for Tinkle to finish his final game in McKale Center, even though he admitted it helped the Wildcats wrap up a 89-63 victory.
“We’ve competed against him for four years. He is one of the best competitors that I have coached against,” Miller said. “In the time that I’ve been at Arizona and here in the Pac-10 and Pac-12, he is a complete player. He has done as much for his team in multiple years as maybe any player that’s ever played in the Pac-10 or Pac-12. I mean, he’s carried them. He does it on glass. He plays the 4, he plays the 3, shoots 3s. He’s incredibly smart, he’s a really good defensive player. I know statistically, he’s going to go down as one of the all-time great players not only at Oregon State, but in the Pac-12.
“It’s unfortunate that he had to exit the game on that play. I don’t look at that as a cheap shot in any way, shape or form. It is what it is. He might have connected above the shoulders, but I know he’s a great kid, high-character guy. I’m not saying this because his dad’s the coach. I think it’s even harder to be a great player when your dad is the coach. It’s not an advantage, and many times it’s a disadvantage, but he is a monster player. He’s First-Team All Pac-12 last year, this year, and I’m just really glad that he’s not going to be playing against us next year.”
Miller made those comments about Tinkle without being asked about the ejection because “I hate for that to be the storyline.”
“It’s tough when you’re guarding the ball and the guy has not dribbled,” Miller said. “If you’re really uptight, which a lot of teams do it, the offensive player can like swim his arms and sometimes unintentionally can connect. But the way the game is called and the rules, I didn’t see the play other than live action, but I don’t want to make too much of it because if you’ve ever played this game, things happen so fast. ... So the referees made the call and whether you agree or disagree, I think they tried to enforce the rule as it is. And unfortunately, a really, really classy kid and a really terrific player had to leave the game and be ejected.”
Tinkle, eighth on the Pac-12’s all-time scoring list, had 10 points and three rebounds on 3-of-11 shooting being sent off.
Arizona outscored OSU 36-23 with Tinkle in the locker room. UA wing Josh Green said the crowd’s energy following the ejection fueled them.
“I think we have the best fans in the nation,” Green said. “It gets us going.”