Final Score: Washington 55 Oregon St. 52
The Oregon St. women's basketball team, almost completely rebuilt since last season's mass exodus, exceeded season expectations when they won 7 preseason games. The question remained whether they could be competitive once the Pac-10 season started though, and that has been answered in the affirmative as well, as coach Scott Rueck's squad has been in position to win each of their first three conference games in the final seconds.
The toughest thing to learn appears to be how to actually win those close conference games. Last week's trip to Arizona resulted in a 49-46 loss to Arizona St., and an even closer 67-65 loss to Arizona. Tonight, the Beavers out-played Washington for almost 35 minutes, taking a 52-39 lead, the largest of the game by either team, on a layin by Alexis Bostick. Then things fell apart, as the Huskies went on a 16-0 run the rest of the way, winning 55-52.
Oregon St. contributed to the problem, with three turnovers, and four missed three pointers during the Washington run. Still the Beavs had the chance to take the last shot, trailing buy only one point, but the last of the missed three pointers put Oregon St. in a position of having to foul, and then not getting a possible game tieing shot up.
Alyssa Martin led Oregon St. against Washington, with 19 points, including 3 of 5 from 3 point range. But Martin took only one shot after a layin at the 9:49 mark. No one else was in double figures. The team has no one else that can create their own shot with any reliability, yet they were not able to get looks for their best shooter.
Five different Huskies scored during the rally, including Kristy Kingma, whose fifth three pointer of the game gave her a team high 15 points. Kingma had hit three straight threes early in the second half, which delayed Oregon St. opening a lead, which would have only needed to be a couple baskets bigger to be big enough.
Kingma had the game's only double double, as she also pulled down 11 rebounds.
(Photo by Andy Wooldridge)
All these issues underscore the difference between a veteran team, like Washington, and a team like Oregon St.
It's not all bad news though, as Rueck has some things in place to build upon, most notably, team defense. It's what got Oregon St. in position to not only win, but win easily. But breakdowns that allowed Kingma, easily the best player on the floor, to get easy looks, and the lack of offensive balance, contrasted with Washington getting three players in double digits (Mackenzie Argens had 13, including the game tieing basket with 1:49 left, and Marjorie Heard had 10, including three in the last 2:24), will have to be fixed.
El Sara Greer, the only returning starter from last year, is a force inside, and grabbed 6 rebounds to go with 5 blocked shots. But Greer still hasn't found her game offensively, and only scored two points against the bigger Huskies. Consistent point production by Greer would go a long ways for Oregon St. Greer scored 12 points against Arizona, but only 2 in both the Arizona St. game and tonight.
There won't be that many opportunities for wins as good as what Oregon St. was looking at with five minutes left in the game. In the Pac-10, there aren't even that many easy wins for Stanford. But when most Pac-10 teams take a double digit lead into the final minutes, they deliver the knockout. Once Oregon St. figures out how to do that, the hardest thing, Rueck's system of hard work will start to show results.
Oregon St. (7-7, 0-3) has possibly their best opportunity to take a step in that direction Saturday, when Washington St. (2-13, 0-3) visits at 2 PM, for a contest that will get one of the teams out of the Pac-10 cellar.
Washington (6-6, 1-2) snapped a three game losing streak, and heads for a Saturday date at Oregon (10-4, 1-2). The Ducks defeated the Cougars 77-72 tonight.