The Oregon State women's basketball team kicked off their 2015-16 campaign Sunday afternoon by blasting Corban College by 50, and tuning up the second unit in the process.
The game was a non-counting exhibition, but the Corban Munchkins (they are actually the Warriors, and a good NAIA program, but played only 1 player taller than 5'10", and roster only one that's even 6 feet tall) hung with the Beavers for most of the first quarter (women's basketball is timing games in 10 minute quarters, eliminating one media timeout in each half in the process), trailing only 19-18 before Oregon State went on a 10-0 run to take a 29-18 lead after 1 period.
The Beavers, who enter the season ranked 10th in the AP poll, and 9th by the Coaches, turned it on at that point though, both offensively and defensively, out-scoring the Warriors 22-4 in the second quarter to take a 51-22 lead to the locker room.
After a half time, when we learned that Storm Woods can't quite hit a half court shot, but Coach Scott Rueck's middle school sized son Cole can (let the recruiting battle begin), it was more of the same in the 3rd quarter, as a 26-6 period put Oregon State up 77-29, and the Beavers coasted home from there for the 98-48 win.
Once the Beavers took control, Rueck made use of much of the game to work on various things with the reserves, but 4 of the 5 starters still wound up in double figures, led by Ruth Hamblin, above, who had 10 points by the end of the first quarter, and wound up with 17 points, and a co-game high 8 rebounds, in just 13 minutes.
Jamie Weisner, above, finished with 12 points, and was the other player with 8 boards, and Gabriella Hanson, below, added 11, 9 of which came in the first quarter.
Sydney Wiess focused on ball movement for much of the game, as she some times is want to do, but woke up in the latter part of the game to drill a couple of 3s, including the one below, to finish with 10 points.
But it was Maria Gullich off the bench that lead Oregon State, with 18 points. Rueck clearly focused on getting Gullich plenty of time to get her game up to what will be required against better competition in support of Hamblin, and also on getting Bre Brown back into the swing of game pace.
Gullich, above, did get more comfortable as the game went on, but the play of Brown, forgotten by some after she red-shirted last season with an injury, as a backup for Devan Hunter, could easily be as important this season.
Brown showed some nerves after the long lay-off, but finished with 7 points and 6 boards, and should be a big addition to the front court for the Beavers.
The other issue for Rueck is replacing Hanson, since Hanson is now replacing the graduated Ali Gibson in the starting lineup. Hanson has bailed the Beavers out on several occasions in her role as both instant offense and hard nosed defense off the bench, and finding the replacement for that is something the Beavers have to have. The backcourt of Weisner, Wiess, and Hanson is as good as any Oregon State will see all season, but injury, illness, or Pac-12 officiating can strike at any time.
Rueck has brought in a pair of freshmen, and it looks like it may be a combination of the two of them that fills Hanson's role, unless one or the other asserts themself over the next 6 weeks.
Katie McWilliams was a little tentative initially, but after a couple of minutes, settled in well. McWilliams, below, plays defense and rebounds, grabbing 4 today, and passes well, but so far isn't a scoring threat.
She did seem to realize that on the off chance she winds up with the ball in her hands, the best thing to do is get rid of it as quick as possible, preferably a pass to Wiese or Hanser. That's not a bad idea at all, and led to 4 assists for McWilliams' line.
The other freshman is Tayor Kalmer, above, and her game is jump shots. Guards from Arizona seem to be this way; see Wiese for reference. Kalmer finished with 9 points.
Julia Young led Corban, finishing with a game high 21 points, including 5 made 3s, and Jade Lawrey was also in double digits for the Warriors, with 13 points, including a couple more 3s.
That raised the biggest concern about Oregon State, as this year's team exhibited "Beavers Syndrome", a trans-gender hoops malady that manifests itself in the form of not getting out to contest wide open 3 point shots.
Corban shot an abysmal 24% from beyond the 3 point arc, but not everyone will, and a decent shooting day would have kept a team that had no business competing with Oregon State in the contest, as most of Corban's 38 3s were open looks.
The other concern that Rueck will be working on in the pre-season is shooting. You would think winning by 50, and being just a basket shy of the century mark would be signs of a good offensive day, but the Beavers actually shot poorly from long range. Their 54% overall shooting masked a mediocre 33% on 3s. Free throws were also a problem, as Oregon State shot only 55% from the line, and more importantly, despite having a size advantage at every matchup, often massively, the Beavers only got to the line 11 times.
The emphasis on ball movement resulted in a 27-7 edge in assists for Oregon State, and the overwhelming size advantage the Beavers had translated to a 60-26 edge in rebounding. That's not a mis-print; the Beavers grabbed 60 rebounds, a 1 1/2 per minute rate. The problem was 20 were offensive boards, which means enough shots were missed that 20 offensive boards were possible.
Oregon State will open their counting season next Friday, hosting Longwood, when they will unveil their 2015 Pac-12 Regular Season Championship banner.
The Beavers will be pressed hard when #4 Tennessee comes to town, and a trip to #3 Notre Dame will be even tougher. But no other team they will face prior to beginning Pac-12 play should be able to come within 20 points. If any do, Beaver Nation should be seriously concerned.
But it will afford Rueck plenty of time to bet the bench ready to support what should be a run to at the very least the Elite 8 for a Beavers team that is the unanimous pick to pick up the Pac-12 Championship. Sunday was the first step in that plan, and overall, a good one.