Utah is one of the tougher defensive teams in the Pac-12, but the Utes ran into a major dose of their own medicine from Oregon St. Friday night in the last quarterfinal game of the Women's Pac-12 Tournament.
The Beavers, who had won the only other meeting of the season, a 60-47 win back on Feb. 10, which Beaver fans will recall as the rescheduled "Don't come if you have to drive" snow storm game, throttled Utah to just 13 first half points, and never led by less than 13 points in the second half, taking the 50-35 win that sets up an All-Northwest Semifinal Saturday night at 8:30, against Washington St., after the Cougars upset #20 and Pac-12 Tournament second seed California 91-83.
Oregon St. jumped out to 4-0 and 7-2 leads early, as Ruth Hamblin dominated the paint, grabbing 6 rebounds and blocking 2 shots in the first 4 1/2 minutes of the game.
The Beavers opened a 12-4 lead in the defensive struggle, as the Utes were only able to make 2 of their first 17 shots.
Sydney Wiese struggled early, missing her first 3 3 point attempts, and Utah made a 5-0 run that cut the deficit to 16-11. That jump started Oregon St., and Wiese in particular, though, as the freshman guard answered with a 5-0 run of her own.
And after a single Utah basket, Oregon St. closed the half with an 11-0 run to take a 32-13 lead to the locker room.
Hamblin only had 6 points, but already had 12 rebounds, and Wiese's late in the half wakeup already had her 2/3 of the way to her game high 21 points.
Utah star Michelle Pfoufle was held to only 3 points in the first half, and Utah shot only 14% before the break, making only 5 of 35 shots, and 0 of 6 3 pointers, as Oregon St. challenged every shot and every pass.
"Keeping them in front of us was key," Oregon St. coach Scott Rueck felt. "They execute very well, so we have to be in position every minute."
Notably, Hamblin, especially when Devon Hunter was in the neighborhood, almost totally excluded Utah from the paint, and on rare occasions when the Utes did get inside, the shots were often hurried, as it was apparent all the Utah players knew the "Canadian Hammer" and Hunter were coming, and they were going to get, well, hammered.
The Utes did sprint out of the locker room with a 6-0 run, but the Oregon St. defense settled down, and shut Utah out for over 4 minutes.
The Beaver offense sputtered in the face of Utah's defense too though, accounting for only 4 points in 8 minutes, but the Utes couldn't capitalize.
The official scorer must have been in as much of a daze as the Utah players, failing to credit Hamblin with a couple of clear blocks, but Hamblin, who is 4th in the nation in blocked shots, did get credit for enough of them to become the single season all-time leader in Pac-10/12 history, with 120. That's more than the majority of teams in the NCAA.
The Beavers went up 40-25 with 8 minutes left, and the Utes were only within 44-31 with less than 4 minutes left.
Despite the Oregon St. defensive pressure, Utah had only committed 3 turnovers in the first 3/4 of the game. But the relentless pressure finally paid off, highlighted by Wiese's steal and coast to coast breakaway layin, resulted in 4 takeaways down the stretch, and the Utes did not score again after the 2:47 mark.
"Utah does that to you," Rueck said of the 'Not Pretty' win, "and I thought we lost our sharpness a little there. But we made the plays we needed to when we needed to."
Hamblin finished with 15 rebounds to go with 6 points and 5 blocks, and Hunter added 8 points and 8 boards.
Pfloufle managed a double double, with a game high 16 rebounds, but just 11 points. Emily Potter was the only other player in double digits, with 10 points.
The win improved Oregon St. to 22-9 for the season, and was their 10th win in a row, all by double digits. The win total and the win streak are both the Beavers' best in 21 years, since the 1982-83 season.
It was also Rueck's first win in the Pac-12 Tournament, after exiting in their first game in each of his first 3 seasons.
Jamie Weisner did make her return, seeing her first action since injuring her left wrist in the Arizona St. game that preceeded the current winning streak.
Utah finished their season 12-19, and this will be the first time in 4th year coach Anthony Levrets' tenure that the Utes haven't gone to the post-season.
Oregon St. won both regular season matchups with Washington St., downing the Cougs 72-57 at Gill in January, and then 67-53 in Pullman in the next to last week of the regular season.
The winner of the Northwest rivalry will meet the winner of the Stanford-USC game Sunday night for the Pac-12 Championship.