By Jesse Sowa

Corvallis Gazette-Times

Devon Collier played his way out of a slump — or malaise, as Oregon State men’s basketball coach Craig Robinson would describe it.

Collier, a senior forward, scored in double figures in consecutive games for the Beavers last week for the first time in almost a month.

He had 23 points and grabbed six rebounds Saturday in a loss at Washington after scoring 10 points three days earlier in a win at Washington State.

Collier has come off the bench for five straight games after starting the previous 13.

He says he would prefer to start, like anybody would, but he really wants to help the Beavers (11-8 overall, 3-4 Pac-12 Conference) win games.

“I just like having a weapon coming off the bench that can give you some volume of points,” Robinson said during a media conference Tuesday at Gill Coliseum. “It just makes it hard for the second team of the opponent to play against you.

Robinson later added: “But if he helps us more coming off the bench, that’s where I think I’m going to keep him. But having said that, I could change my mind. Especially when we play these longer teams.”

The Beavers will face one of those types of teams tonight when they host Southern California (10-10, 1-6) at 6 o’clock.

Close to breakthrough?: OSU coaches and players feel as though they are close to a breakthrough.

And they could be right, based on the team’s overall and Pac-12 records compared with recent seasons.

“I feel like we’re not close enough to where we want to be. We lost a critical game (at Washington), and that’s the game we wanted to win, we needed to win,” Collier said. “I don’t feel like we’re close enough until we start winning some games.”

The Beavers have lost two games in a row just once this season and will try to avoid a second straight loss tonight.

Leadership, accountability: Freshman guard Hallice Cooke walked around the OSU locker room after Saturday’s loss telling teammates the defeat was his fault.

Cooke took — and missed — some second-half shots early in the shot clock that helped the Huskies maintain their comeback and momentum.

Cooke made three of his nine shots from the floor against Washington for eight points.

Robinson said it was not the rookie’s blame to take.

“It’s a sign of his self-perception. In this day and age where guys don’t want to take accountability for things, it was refreshing for a guy walk up to you and say this was on me,” the coach said. “It doesn’t happen often and it shows a level of maturity and it shows a level of accountability, but it also shows some leadership, was what I liked.”

Nelson’s game blossoms: OSU senior guard Roberto Nelson has transformed since he first came to Corvallis and was not very coachable, Robinson said.

“The last two years he’s just realized that we (coaches) may know a little bit and he’s allowed us to coach him,” Robinson said. “And his game has just blossomed.”

Nelson’s ability to score — at a conference-leading 22.2 points per game — has been buoyed by his ability to score in so many different ways, whether shooting from outside or driving to the basket.

He is also making free throws at 86.3 percent, nearly 10 percent better than last year.