Oregon St. pulled away from Arizona Friday night for the 18 point, 73-55 win that was about what was expected as the Beavers set up for Sunday's showdown in Tempe against Arizona St. for the Pac-12 Conference lead, after the Sun Devils also took care of business, beating Oregon 70-58.
Early on, that outcome wasn't apparent, as the scrappy 'Cats, despite fulfilling their pre-season prediction of a last place finish by being tied for that spot with a winless in conference record, played the Beavers tough, leading much of the first half, as Oregon St. initially played as inconsistent as the choppy Pac-12 stream.
It was tied at 26 apiece 3 1/2 minutes before half time, but then the Beavers gave an indication of things to come, with a 12-6 run, capped by Ruth Hamblin's basket at the buzzer for a 38-32 lead.
"They got into the middle, which is where they want to be, a lot," Oregon St. coach Scott Rueck said on the way to the locker room. "We need to challenge them a little more to reduce that."
Jamie Weisner and Ali Gibson hit back to back baskets to open the second half, and a 10 point lead, and Hamblin's 5th blocked shot of the game led to a Sydney Wiese 3, but Arizona got 2 baskets off turnovers to keep the game from getting away immediately.
It was only a temporary setback for the Beavers, though. The difference was the Oregon St.'s balance and depth, and it was illustrated by the stat sheet at the under 12 minute timeout.
Arizona's Candice Warther had 20 of what would be her game high 22 points, but Oregon St. was up 52-40, with Hamblin the only Beaver in double digits. But the other 4 Oregon St. starters had 9, 8, 7, & 7 points.
The Beavers gradually pulled away, leading by 14 at the 10 minute mark, and then went up 15 on Gabriella Hanson's banked in 3 pointer that made it 59-44.
Kolbie Orum opened a 17 point lead with 7 1/2 minutes left, but the Beavers then suffered a 3 1/2 minute scoring drought. However, against the Oregon St. defense, Arizona managed only 3 points in that stretch, and the Beavers twice opened 18 point leads, the largest of the game, including the 73-55 final.
"This was a tough game," Rueck said. "I loved the poise we showed in the second half. I think we got into a rhythm offensively and we played our game. I was really happy to see that. When we play like that, we're a hard team to beat."
Gibson led Oregon St. with 12 points, and Hambiln and Hanson both finished with 10. Deven Hunter just missed a double double, with a game high 10 rebounds, and 9 points. Wiese also had 9, along with 6 assists and 5 boards.
Hamblin, the reining Pac-12 Player of the Week, had 7 rebounds, and another 6 blocks. In all, 10 Beavers scored.
LaBrittney Jones had 11 off the bench for Arizona, but no other 'Cat had more than 6 points, and the other 4 startes behind Warthen combined for only 14.
Oregon St. improved to 17-1, while Arizona is 18-1, and both are 7-0 in the Pac-12 heading to Sunday afternoon's 2 PM (1 PM PST) showdown.
The Beavers are 29-3 since losing a lead late in their last visit to Tempe, when the Sun Devils overcame a 5 point deficit with a minute to go with a 7-0 run to the 64-62 win last Jan. 31. Oregon St. would even the score with a 66-43 win in the rematch in Gill in early March.