Oregon St. claimed the showdown with Arizona St. for sole possession of first place in the Pac-12 Sunday with a 68-57 win that wasn't as close as the score indicated, and was historic on several levels.
Even though the Beavers were slightly the favorites, coming in 9th ranked in the nation, even though the 13th ranked Sun Devils actually had 1 more win at the start of the day, any win, much less one by double digits, in Tempe amounts to another landmark accomplishment, snapping several Sun Devil streaks of note, and putting the Beavers alone in first place in the Pac-10/12 for the first time in a very long time.
The Sun Devils started off hot, and a 6-0 run opened a 7 point, 11-4 lead 5 minutes into the game.
The Beavers answered with a 10-0 run, sparked by Gabriella Hanson, who hit her first 3 shots of the game off the bench.
Arizona St. battled back to take two different 3 point leads, but their 19-16 lead on a Promise Amukamara basket at the 7:21 mark would prove to be the Sun Devil's last bright moment of the afternoon.
Sydney Wiese, playing in front of her home town fans, answered, and then Ruth Hamblin put Oregon St. ahead for good, though no one knew that at the time.
It started an 11-2 Oregon St. run, and after after Arizona St.'s Kelsey Moos hit 1 of 2 free throws, the Beavers took a 27-22 lead to the locker room.
It was how the second half started that determined the outcome of the game, though, and in only a matter of minutes.
Hamblin, having scored only 4 points in the first half, got a basket on the first possession after the break, but Hamblin and Deven Hunter then picked up back to back fouls, and it appeared momentum might swing the Sun Devils' way.
Arizona St. didn't capitalize though, making only 1 of 4 free throws, and the Sun Devils picked up 4 fouls of their own in a matter of seconds, including 2 on their star Sophie Brunner.
Jamie Weisner's basket opened an 8 point lead, the largest for either team to that point, but Moos answered to make it a 31-25 game.
Things went dark in a hurry after that for the Sun Devils, though.
Ali Gibson had a chance at a 2 + 1 3 point play, but missed the +1; however Oregon St got the offensive rebound, Weisner buried a 3 pointer, and Arizona St. coach Charlie Turner-Thorne got a technical. Weise swished both free throws, and the Beavers had an 8-0 run in 19 seconds.
A Sun Devil turnover led to Weise hitting another, and it was a 10-0 run in 37 seconds, and the 6 point deficit was suddenly 16.
It would be 20 by the time the run grew to 14-0 on Hamblin's back to back baskets that made it 45-25 4 1/4 minutes into the second half, and Arizona St. never recovered.
That was the Beavers' largest lead of the game, but the Sun Devils didn't get the deficit down to 14 until Katie Hempen hit a 3 pointer after the under 8 minute media timeout.
Gibson rebuilt the lead to 18 with back to back baskets, and it was still an 18 point Oregon St. edge when Brunner fouled out with just over 6 minutes to go, and Weisner sank both free throws. Brunner, Arizona St.'s leading scorer, was held to just 7 points, and was never able to figure out what to do against the imposing presence of Hammer.
Arizona St. made a 5-0 run to the under 4 minute media time out, but Hanson answered with a 3.
The margin of victory was artificially deflated when Moos tried to throw a moving screen in front of Hamblin, and got splattered as a result. Hempler took 2 steps around the mess after the whistle blew, and sank a 3 pointer that somehow was considered to have counted. Moos was then rewarded for the moving screen with 2 free throws, and the Sun Devils had a 5-0 run out of what should have been a turnover.
Weisner wasn't impressed, and promptly buried another 3 pointer to cap her team high 21 point day, and put an end to any thoughts of an Arizona St. comeback, and Oregon St. rebuilt the lead to 18 with only 1:16 to go with a 7-0 run of their own, ensuring there would not be a repeat of the Beavers' last regular season loss last Jan. 31, when the Sun Devils overcame a 5 point deficit with a minute to go with a 7-0 run to hand Oregon St. a 64-64 setback.
Hemper led Arizona St., with a game high 22, including 6 made 3 pointers, but 3 of them came in classic Reggie MIller stat padding fashion, with less than 5 1/2 minutes left, and after the Sun Devils had fallen behind by 18, while the Beavers were in clock-ball mode.
No other Arizona St. player wound up in double digits, with Brunner, Moos, and Arnecia Hawkins off the bench, all with 7.
Hanson had 12 off the bench for the Beavers, and Hamblin and Gibson both had 11. Hamblin also had a co-game high (with Deven Hunter) 7 rebounds, and 3 blocked shots.
The Beavers out-boarded the Sun Devils by 6, and shot 50% from the field, and 35% on 3 pointers, while holding Arizona St. to under 36% shooting.
"When you play great teams, it brings out your best," Oregon state coach Scott Rueck said. ""We have a combination of ability and experience, and I think that really showed today."
Arizona St. came in riding a 14 game winning streak, the 2nd longest ever in Sun Devil history, and were looking to extend an 11 game home winning streak, and equal their longest streak at home.
Further, prior to last season's 66-43 win at Gill, Arizona St. had beaten Oregon St. 22 of the prior 24 meetings, and the 2 game winning streak is the only one ever for the Beavers against the Sun Devils.
Even more notable, Arizona St had won 17 straight against Oregon St. in Tempe.
Beaver fans are quite familiar with the still recent program crash that led to Rueck taking over for Lavonda Wagner, but its also worth remembering that Wagner also took multiple teams to the post season, and the Tempe streak extends even further back, to an earlier era. Oregon St. had teams that went to some tournaments at times, so its not always been "bottom of the barrel Beavers" getting torched in Tempe.
Oregon St. improved to 18-1, and 8-0 in the Pac-12, while Arizona St. slipped to 18-2, and 7-1 in conference, still in 2nd place as the Sun Devils head for the Intermountain swing through Utah and Colorado.
The Beavers return home to Gill for a Saturday afternoon rematch of last year's Pac-12 Tournament Championship game against USC. The Trojans came from behind in that one, but went down 76-66 when the Beavers went to LA earlier this month.