It could not have been much bigger coming in for both programs as the #9 Oregon State women's basketball team took on #8 Arizona State at Gill Coliseum.
Defending Pac-12 Champions Oregon State came into the game with a 17 and 3 overall record, which included an 8 and 1 record in conference play, and 21 wins in their last 22 games at Gill Coliseum. The Beavers were looking to build on their previous season success over the Sun Devils, which included winning both games last year. On the other side the Arizona State team was looking to avenge those important losses from last season and continue their current impressive top-10 play. The Sun Devils brought in a solid 18 and 3 overall record and an unbeaten conference record of 9 wins, which was ASU's best start in program history.
Both teams were coming off conference wins, but they could not have been more different as Oregon State easily took care of business over the struggling Arizona Wildcats team 71 to 43, and Arizona State held on to defeat a scrappy Oregon Ducks team 63 to 58.
With how it all aligned for both teams coming into this mid-season game, this 2016 match up mirrored much of the 2014-15 season, with both teams battling it out in the standings for first place yet again and just by a slim margin of one game.
Arizona State struck first as Quinn Dornstauder went right at Ruth Hamblin, and then an Oregon State turnover led to a second chance basket as the Sun Devils took an early 4 to 0 lead in the first quarter. Jamie Weisner broke the early ASU scoring run cutting the lead in half for the Beavs. Sydney Wiese, who got the start, also contributed a 3-point basket, but the Sun Devils were red hot to start the game and were able to take a 10 to 6 lead at the 5:38 mark. But behind Weisner's own red hot shooting the Beavs were able to tie the game 10 to 10 at the 4:37 mark.
As the first quarter wound down the defenses picked up their play as the game settled into more of the hard fought in-the-trenches game that was expected from these two stellar defenses, all of which translated into a 12 to 12 draw at the end of the first quarter.
Oregon State's start to the second quarter began well as the Beavs took their first lead, 15 to 12, on a Wiese 3-point basket. The game then saw both teams exchanging blows as 3-pointers and hard fought baskets kept the score going back-and-forth. A Deven Hunter offensive rebound and put back then gave the Beavs a four point lead, which helped shift the momentum to the Orange and Black side. This momentum swing then led to a Gabriella Hanson fast break basket after a huge Hamblin blocked shot, which put the Beavers up 25 to 19 with 5:34 left in the half.
Hamblin accounted for 3 of the 7 blocked ASU shots OSU recorded.
The momentum roller coaster though shifted back to ASU as the Sun Devils were able to cut the lead to a point, and Arizona State was able to get Sydney Wiese into four trouble, with three fouls, forcing Scott Rueck to bench Wiese for the rest of the half. Strong Oregon State defense combined with Jamie Weisner and Ruth Hamblin showing their senior experience helped build the Beavers lead back up to five points. But once again Oregon State turnovers made it possible for an opposing team keep it close at the end of the half, as Arizona State was able to cut the OSU lead to 31 to 29 as the two teams went to halftime break.
The halftime stats showed Oregon State shooting a solid 12 for 20 (60%) from the field. On the other side of the ball Arizona State struggled more in establishing their offensive stride and shot only 12 for 27 (44%) from the field. The Beavers hit 4 of their 8 three-point attempts versus ASU's 1 for 2 attempts. Additionally Oregon State was able to convert 3 of their 5 free throws, and Arizona State converted 4 for 4 from the foul line. Two very important stats were rebounding and turnovers, which OSU won the rebounding battle 15 to 8 but the Sun Devils easily won the turnover battle 3 to 11.
The first half scoring was led by Oregon State's Jamie Weisner with 13 points, followed by Sydney Wiese with 7 points. Arizona State got solid production from Sophie Brunner who scored 8 points, and Quinn Dornstauder also chipped in 6 points.
Jamie Weisner continued her blistering shooting in the opening second half possession for Oregon State draining another 3-point shot. Weisner would wind up shooting 90% from the field for the night, connecting on 9 of 10 shots, including all 3 of her 3s.
Then Ruth Hamblin, above, scored the next four OSU points to up the Beavers' lead to 38 to 31, to be followed by a strong Weisner drive to the basket that forced Arizona State into a timeout as the Beavs took a 40 to 31 lead at the 6:40 mark of the third quarter.
A 13 to 2 run by the Beavs energized both the large home crowd and the Oregon State defense, which led to two consecutive ASU shot clock violations.
Katie McWilliams then took advantage of the ASU scoring drought with a huge 3-point basket to increase the OSU lead to fifteen points, and the freshman then nailed a clutch last second 3-point shot, above, to end the quarter. The third quarter ended in Oregon State's advantage as the Beavs outscored the Sun Devils 18 to 6 allowing OSU to take a 49 to 35 lead into the fourth and final quarter.
The final quarter saw Oregon State's defense to continue to establish itself as Arizona State just did not look comfortable with their offensive sets, and this all opened up the game on the offensive side for the Beavs.
Indeed at the 5:49 mark a Deven Hunter driving layup, above, increased the Oregon State lead to 21 points. It was more than enough as the Beavers took full control of the game much to the enjoyment of their home crowd.
As the final buzzer sounded the Beavers came away with a 67 to 44 statement win. Oregon State was able to finish the game shooting 25 for 43 (58%) from the field, which included hitting 8 for 15 three-point attempts. The Beavers were business-like from the foul line hitting 9 for their 12 attempts, and Oregon State was able to pull in 34 rebounds total. And for a game that coming in seemed to hinge on ball control, the Beavs overcame turning it over 18 times.
Arizona State's final numbers saw the Sun Devils become another team to be stifled by the Oregon State defense only shooting 17 for 55 (31%) from the field, including 2 for 8 three-point attempts. The Sun Devils were held to their lowest point production of the season.
"This has to be our best performance to this point," Rueck said. "I felt this was the best defensive game Deven Hunter has ever played."
ASU was able to convert 8 of their 10 free throw attempts, had 23 rebounds, and turned it over 8 times.
Oregon State's leading scorers were Jamie Weisner with 25 points, Sydney Wiese with 14 points, and a game high 9 rebounds, and Ruth Hamblin with 12 points and 8 boards. Sophie Brunner scored 13 points for Arizona State, and was followed by Quinn Dornstauder with 8 points.
With the win Oregon State pulls even with Arizona State atop of the Pac-12. But it was not just a first place tying game, it was an impressive performance as the Oregon State defense stifled the Sun Devils and the OSU offense shot an impressive 58% from the field.
"We did a lot of things that were not what we wanted to do (because of them)," Arizona State Coach Charlie Turner-Thorne felt.
This all led to a blowout of a final score, all of which took place in the second half since Oregon State only had a two-point advantage at the break. Additionally it was a big game for both teams since it will be the only regular season meeting between the two programs, and so, though tied, the Beavers own the tie-breaker.
It was also the only time the Pac-12 will appear on ESPN's "Big Monday" college basketball coverage, and Oregon State delivered.
"Arizona State demands your best, and they will make you pay for mistakes," Rueck said. "Our team rose to the challenge tonight."
ESPN replay: http://espn.go.com/watchespn/player/_/id/2733427/
As impressive the win was, Oregon State cannot rest on its laurels for the Beavers will hit the road for a Washington series that begins with another important game against the #24 Washington Huskies (16-5, 7-3) this Friday evening in Seattle starting at 6:00pm PT. The game will be televised live on Pac-12 Networks.
Cue the fight song!