Oregon State's women's basketball team staged a stirring comeback Sunday night, overcoming a 15 point deficit to pull away for a 58-50 win that not only stunned Stanford, it ended a 29 game winning streak the Cardinal had against the Beavers.
The 12th ranked Beavers got off to a good start, opening a 4 point lead in the first quarter, though the Cardinal climbed back within 12-11 by the end of the period.
11th ranked Stanford put together a stellar second quarter, and used an 11-0 run capped by back to back baskets by Erica McCall to open a 14 point lead, this while Oregon State went nearly 6 minutes without scoring.
After an Oregon State timeout, Deven Hunter, above, finally broke the drought with her 3rd 3 pointer of the night, and Jamie Weisner's basket cut the deficit to 9 at the break, as Stanford sprinted to the locker room up 30-21.
Stanford's second quarter surge was in part a product of Cardinal coach Tara Vanderveer's strategy of switching back and forth between Marta Sniezek, Katie Samuelson, and Briana Roberson checking Oregon State freshman point guard Katie McWilliams, forcing McWilliams to work hard every trip up the court. With Jamie Weisner still out with a broken bone in her right hand, McWilliams had to handle the bulk of the ball handling in backcourt for the Beavers.
Compounding the matter, Gabriella Hanson didn't take a turn bringing the ball up until well into the 2nd quarter, and interestingly, Vanderveer's strategy to make McWilliams work even extended to pressing McWilliams without the ball while ignoring Hanson until she was into front court
The strategy was clearly paying dividends, as McWilliams missed a couple of open shots, leaving them short, to extend the 2nd quarter drought.
At the same time, Stanford was scoring effectively inside, with McCall coming up with 6 points behind 8 by Kailee Johnson, above, in the first half. Meanwhile, Ruth Hamblin was having a terrible evening, and was held scoreless in the first half.
The Cardinal kept the pressure on, and went back up by 15 midway in the 3rd quarter, on a layup by McCall.
But Stanford couldn't deliver the knockout punch, though they probably should have. Oregon State, hanging on by a thread, and with Jamie Weisner and Sam Siegner both in foul trouble, probably would have folded had a couple more Cardinal baskets gone down.
But the Beaves, determined to not be blown out once again by Stanford, the usual outcome over the last decade and a half, dug in on defense and came up with 4 stops to end the 3rd quarter, and 7 in the last 8 Cardinal possessions, as Coach Scott Rueck went to a zone defense, taking a risk, but also advantage of Stanford's lack of a reliable perimeter shooter that can consistently knock down shots to break a zone.
Though they still trailed by a double digit margin, down 40-30, it reenergized the Oregon State crowd, and the Beaver defense continued to get quality stops, playing to the end of the shot clock despite the Cardinal conducting a passing clinic around the perimeter. Stanford suffered multiple shot clock violations in the decisive 4th quarter.
But the Beavers were still down 11 with 7 minutes to go. Then came the run that would win the game.
Hunter, having the game of her career, got it started with a layup in traffic, and then added yet another 3 pointer, on one of Weisner's 6 assists, this after a McWilliams rebound and outlet.
Weisner and McWilliams hit back to back baskets to bring the Beavers with 2 points, and then, after a Weisner free throw, Hunter hit her 5th 3 pointer, a career high, to get the lead back for Oregon State, as the Beavers went up 48-46 with just over 3 minutes to go.
A minute later, coming out of a timeout Rueck called with the shot clock down to 5 seconds, McWilliams found Weisner who drilled a shot clock beating jumper that had the crowd of 4.314 sounding more like twice that many.
After a pair of Hanson free throws extended the Oregon State run to 17, Roberson finally found a lane to the basket for a layin to slow the streak.
But Weisner buried a 3 pointer, above, and it was essentially over, with the Cardinal needing 3 baskets. They only got a pair of free throws though, despite an extra possession when Hunter committed a turnover on an inbounds pass, moving on the baseline as can only be done after a made basket.
It was the only error of the evening by the senior though, as she finished with a game high 19 points, and a game high 12 rebounds, in 37 minutes, many more than Hunter ordinarily logs.
But it was her 3 point shooting, burying 5 of 7 from beyond the arc, that no one, least of all Stanford coach Vanderveer, could have ever anticipated, much less game planned for.
It propelled Oregon State to an 8 of 16 3 point shooting night, compared to Stanford's 2 of 11 from long range.
It was especially important, given that Hamblin finished with only 4 points and 2 rebounds, and was benched in favor of Maria Gulich down the stretch, including the entire 4th quarter.
Weisner was Weisner, adding 18 points on 64%, 7 of 11 shooting, to go with the 6 assists and 4 steals. 14 of her points came in the second half, with 12 in the final quarter, all while playing with 3 fouls.
"She's an all conference player," Vanderveer said. "She stepped up big in the second half and we didn't get the job done (on her)."
Hanson, coming off a career night in Friday's 70-48 rout of California, struggled from the floor all night, hitting only 1 of 7 shots, but finished with 7 points, on 5 of 6 free throw shooting.
McWilliams, above, finished with only 6 points, but toughed it out to play all 40 minutes, something no one else did, and added 4 rebounds, 3 assists, and, remarkably, a pair of key blocked shots. That was a game high, remarkable given the presence of not only Hamblin, Hunter, and Gulich, but also Johnson and McCall.
Johnson led Stanford, with 14 points, but 8 of those came on 8 of 8 free throw shooting, as after a fast start, wound up making only 3 of 6 shots from the field. McCall came off the Cardinal bench to add 12 points, and a team high 8 boards.
"It's hard to put this one into words," Rueck said. "This was a great basketball game tonight. You know you're going to get Stanford's absolute A game, especially in a game like this one. For 30 minutes it was a struggle, and then things changed. The last 12-13 minutes of this game were a blur, and that's a stretch of basketball no one here will ever forget. This is only one game, but it's a significant one for us, and I'm so proud of the way we competed today."
Oregon State improved to 14-3, and 5-1 in the Pac-12, 1 game behind still unbeaten in conference Arizona State. The win not only snapped the 29 game losing streak against Stanford, it provided the weekend sweep by the Beavers that is their first against the Bay Area schools in 21 years.
The Beavers now head for the mountains, with a game Friday night in Salt Lake City against Utah, and then on to Boulder for a contest against Colorado on Sunday afternoon.
Stanford, with a split in the valley this weekend, dropped to 14-4, and 4-2 in the Pac-12. The Cardinal continue on the road, heading to Los Angeles to take on USC Friday and UCLA next Sunday.
Cue the Fight Song!