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Women’s basketball: Oregon State stuns USC, earns shot at CU Buffs

Flanked by her teammates, Oregon State's Raegan Beers, right, talks on the Pac-12 Network set after the Beavers upset USC in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament at Michelob Ultra Arena on March 1, 2023. (Pac-12 Conference)
Flanked by her teammates, Oregon State’s Raegan Beers, right, talks on the Pac-12 Network set after the Beavers upset USC in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament at Michelob Ultra Arena on March 1, 2023. (Pac-12 Conference)

LAS VEGAS – In Scott Rueck’s 13 seasons as head coach, the Oregon State women’s basketball team has grown accustomed to winning.

That’s why this season has been so odd for the Beavers, who came into the Pac-12 Tournament with their lowest seed ever, at No. 11. Suddenly, however, they’ve found their mojo.

On Wednesday night, the  Beavers stunned sixth-seeded USC, 56-48, in the first round of the Pac-12 women’s tournament at Michelob Ultra Arena.

OSU (13-17) will face third-seeded Colorado (22-7) in the quarterfinals on Thursday at 9:30 p.m. MT. It’ll be the 10th consecutive quarterfinal appearance for OSU, joining Stanford as the only teams to reach that round every year in the past decade.

“We’re used to winning,” Rueck said. “That’s what we do and that’s what we’ve done. It’s why they all come here. We’re all winners. We lost nine straight games (this season) and that’s only happened to me two other times and it was year one and three of this complete rebuild. It’s never happened to these (current players).”

That nine-game losing streak included a two-point loss at home last Thursday to last-place Arizona State – the only conference win of the season for the Sun Devils. OSU responded to that by upsetting No. 14 Arizona on Sunday and then shocking the Trojans on Wednesday.

“This group has just needed time,” Rueck said. “Certainly there’s a confidence within our group because we’ve played everybody tough. We had a shot to beat Utah, we had a shot to tie Stanford. You look back at all the leads that we’ve had where we’ve come up short, we’ve played with everybody.

“That confidence has been so close all year and it’s just been slightly illusive, which has been painful, but at the same time it’s kind of head scratching because you’re like we’re so close. And then, here we are.”

Even with some renewed confidence, the Beavers were down by eight with 7 minutes to play before closing on a 21-5 run.

Adlee Blacklock, who had 15 points, drained a 3-pointer with 5:34 to play to pull within 43-40 and was fired up, yelling “Let’s go!” to her teammates as she ran down the court.

“I was thankful coach drew the play up for me and I’m glad that we were able to execute it,” she said. “I think at that point everybody wanted to elevate. It’s easy to want to win for the seniors, for Bendu (Yeaney). You don’t want this to be her last game. So I think it was easy to get fired up for that moment.”

Freshman Raegan Beers, from Valor Christian High School, had six points in the closing surge and Blacklock sealed the game by going 4-for-4 at the free throw line in the final 18 seconds.

Beers finished with 18 points and nine rebounds, while Jelena Mitrovic had 12 points.

Now, Oregon State gets a shot at the Buffaloes, who dominated the regular season matchup in Corvallis, 67-48 on Feb. 5. CU raced out to a 28-6 lead after the first 14 minutes, 10 seconds and OSU never threatened from there.

“They were at a different level than we were to start that game,” Rueck said. “They came in and absolutely beat us up in that first quarter. They beat us to every basketball. They played at a completely different level of intensity. Before you know it, the game’s basically over at the end of the first.”

Rueck expects CU to open with the same fire and intensity on Thursday.

“(CU guard Jaylyn Sherrod) is going to be everywhere, all over the floor, and so we’re going to need to be ready for it,” he said. “I believe we will be. But they bring a ton of energy. They play really fast, and so you’ve got to be on your A game from the tip. So it should be a great game, a big test.”

That loss came in the middle of the Beavers’ nine-game losing streak. They lost five more after CU left town. But, in the last six days, OSU has found the spark that’s been missing.

“We’re a different team obviously from when we played (the Buffs), even though it wasn’t that long ago,” Beers said. “We have some good wins under our belt and we’re really coming together as a team. So it’s going to take great post position, going to take great guards knocking down shots. … Everybody coming to play and giving our 100 percent max effort because that’s what it is going to take to beat them (Thursday).”