It was "A Three-a for Rhea" seven times, as Oregon St.'s Talisa Rhea poured in 30 points for the Beavers Saturday afternoon, but it wasn't enough, as the Oregon Ducks outdistanced OSU 86-71 in the opening round of Civil War hoops action for this winter.
Oregon's backcourt tandem of seniors Taylor Lilley and Micaela Cocks combined for 45 points, eight assists, and four rebounds, and Lilley added four steals. Lilley led the Lady Ducks with 23 points, with Cocks close behind with 22.
Oregon coach Paul Westhead knew Rhea would be a problem for the Ducks, but still admitted to underestimating the junior's ability, saying "I looked at a lot of film, and we tried to do our best to stop (Talisa) Rhea, but whatever we tried didn't work. She was better than I thought. I thought she was a handful, and turns out she was more than a handful. She's an excellent basketball player."
OSU's Talisa Rhea buries one of her seven three point shots.
Freshman Haiden Palmer matched her career high with 19 points for OSU, but Oregon's Amanda Johnson went her one better, with 20, and also a game high nine rebounds.
Oregon St.'s Haiden Palmer matched her scoring career high against Oregon.
Kierstan Tilleman had one of her best games of the season, with 13 points, and also led OSU on the boards with seven. But the difference came off the bench, as Jasmin Holliday had 13 of Oregon's 15 points from reserves, while Oregon St. got no production from their reserves.
Kierstan Tilleman (21) scores two of her 13 points for OSU.
The game, nationally televised by Fox Sports, still drew the largest crowd so far this season for the women, as 3,095 fans turned out for what was a very civil Civil War, and a close game most of the way thru the first half. There were five lead changes in the first 15 minutes, as the Beavers answered a 10-4 Duck run with their own 8-2 stretch, and twice took three point leads, the last a 28-25 advantage.
But the Ducks, who hadn't been as successful early at speeding up the game as the Beavers had been at playing patient offense, finally took flight. A 9-0 run sparked a 17-3 stretch that opened a 10 point Oregon lead, but a Rhea three and a pair of Palmer baskets had OSU only down six at the break.
"They were able to hit some big threes in transition," Oregon St. Coach LaVonda Wagner observed, "which made it a two or three possession game each time."
Oregon controlled most of the second half, leading the whole time, three times by as many as 15 points. Oregon St. rallied against the Duck's pressuring defense at times, three times cutting the deficit down to eight points, but Oregon always answered big Beaver plays, often out-sprinting OSU back and immediately knocking down an outside shot.
"It seemed that every time we hit a shot, they came right back down and ran the ball back down the court," Rhea commented. "If we hit a three, they transitioned, then they were able to match it."
Complicating the matter for the Beavers was the Ducks' ability to make threes from not just beyond the women's three point line, or the mens' at 20' for that matter, but from well beyond NBA range, outwards of 25 feet.
Oregon's Taylor Lilley (1) hits a long three pointer from well beyond where Oregon. St.'s Julie Futch (23) expected the shot to come from.
"I thought it was a really good basketball game tonight," Wagner observed. "For the most part, we played pretty well. For the other 10 minutes of the game, we got away from our game plan, and that really hurt us. In the first five minutes of the second half, we came out with a lack of intensity, and we did not have a sense of urgency. And they knocked down their shots."
Early in the game, Cocks' speed and quick release in particular seemed to surprise the Beavers. After a couple of quick baskets in the second half, however, Oregon St. was more successful at isolating her without losing her, but Lilley became more of a challenge. And Johnson had 15 of her points after the break, noticeably taking more initiative with the ball once she got a feel for the OSU inside defense.
Oregon's Micaela Cocks (2) scores two of her 22 points over OSU's Brittany Kennedy (24).
Outside of Rhea and Tilleman, the OSU players often seemed uncertain, as even Palmer didn't attack at times when she had the advantage. While some of that was due to Wagner's game plan of trying not to get into an all-out running game against Coach Paul Westhead's Ducks who favor that pace, the inexperience of Palmer, a freshman, sophomore Brittany Kennedy, and JC transfer El Sara Green, appeared to produce hesitation the Beavers couldn't afford.
"In the second half, when they were able to get away from us, they made their run, which we knew they would," Wagner said. "We need to be able to stick with our game plan and play our type of basketball."
The win kept the Ducks atop the Pac-10, now with a 3-0 conference record, and improved to 12-3 overall. The Beavers dropped to 9-4 overall, and 1-2 in conference, as the Oregon schools head for Arizona next week. Oregon St. visits Arizona Thursday night, and takes on Arizona St. Saturday at 5:30, in a game that will be televised by Fox Sports Northwest.
The Civil War continues with the men's teams meeting tomorrow night in Mac Court at 7:30. The game will also be on Fox Sports Northwest, and will also be the last mens' Civil War game contested at Mac Court.