The Oregon St. women's basketball team is off this week, celebrating Christmas. While they are doing that, they are also celebrating breaking into the top 10 in the polls this week. (South Carolina, who knocked Oregon St. out of the NCAA Tournament last year is ranked #1, by the way.)
Indeed, the women have been doing a lot of celebrating lately, as they are celebrating that top 10 ranking by the AP because they celebrated sweeping the New Orleans Shootout this past weekend, and the first ever 10-0 start in the history of the program. This after celebrating their 15 point upset win at North Carolina last week.
Interestingly, the Beavers, who are actually tied with Duke for 10th. in the AP rankings, are still 1 slot behind those now once-beaten Tarheels. North Carolina's resume is stellar, and they deserve to be ranked about where they are. But if you have determined to rank 2 teams adjacent to each other, and the only loss either team has is in a head to head meeting, it would seem like that would be the defining factor between the two of them, especially if the win was substantial, and absent any controversy.
Oregon St. will get a chance to address the issue next Sunday though, when the Beavers get back on the floor in Knoxville, TN, when they take on Tennessee (9-2), who just happen to be ranked #8.
All 10 of Oregon St.'s wins have been by double digits, but it didn't look like that might be the case early on in Friday night's game in New Orleans, in the made for selling motel room tournament that imported the Beavers, Southern Illinois, Toledo, and Nevada.
The game against the Salukis started out close and competitive, but took a dramatic turn when, with the Beavers leading 23-22, Ali Gibson got a foul that didn't receive consensus approval of the tiny crowd of 375 on hand (though that small number did include former Oregon St. great Felcia Raglund). Deven Hunter flipped the ball off her hand, drawing a technical foul, and then head coach Scott Rueck drew 2 more technicals, and tossed out of the place.
The Salukis sank 8 straight free throws, and as a result, held a 2 point 30-28 lead at halftime, and still were ahead at the first media timeout of the second half.
The Beaver finally got it in gear though, and with assistant coach Jonas Chatterton calling the plays, blew by for the 71-55 win.
"I think once the technicals and all that craziness happened, we had a shot of adrenaline and we pulled it together and we we said, ‘we're not losing this game,' Sydney Wiess felt. "And that's when it started to show out on the floor. Our energy came back and I think we did a really good job in the second half pulling together and getting the win."
Ruth Hamblin had a game high 16 points, and Wiese added another 12, but it was the Beaver bench that made a difference, chipping in 26 points, 11 by Marie Gulich, and 10 from Gabriella Hanson.
Coupled mostly with her 17 point, 10 rebound double double in the Beavers' 70-55 win at North Carolina, it earned Hamblin the Pac-12 Player of the Week honor.
The bench was an even bigger part of Saturday's blowout win over Nevada. Oregon St. opened a 43-25 halftime lead, and cruised to the 73-50 win, this despite getting to the free throw line only once all game. But none of Oregon St.'s starters were in double figures, with Wiese and Jamie Weisner the closest, both with 9 points.
But the bench accounted for 45 points, as Hanson had a game high 16 points, and Samantha Siegner a career high 15.
365 people saw this one. Clearly, Oregon St. should re-consider any more such side trips; even during winter break, women's game at Gill would have had more people turn out for a single game than the sum of the attendance of the 2 games, which obviously had a lot of double dippers.
And without even a stream, its easy to understand how the AP voters might not have all the info that would have helped Oregon St. climb a little higher.
The Beavers are still the highest ranked team from the west, or the Pac-12 though. Stanford, which has struggled to a 6-4 start after losing twice last week sits at #16, and once beaten Arizona St. (10-1) rounds out the top 25.
The only other teams from the west even getting votes are California, who are #28 after losing 3 in a row, Washington, and Washington St. (this despite the Huskies and Cougars being a combined 18-3).
It's the first time Oregon St. has ever been the highest ranked team from the conference or the region, and the first time they have been in the top 10, surpassing the 11th ranking they reached in the Jan. 9 1996 poll.
As of the close of the week, Oregon St. also leads the country in assists, which has a lot to do with their unprecedented success.
Merry Christmas, and Go Beavs!