Oregon State punched their ticket to the Sweet 16 in the Dallas regional of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament with a 69-40 blowout of St. Bonaventure Sunday night. It will be only the second trip ever this deep into the tournament for the Beavers. It's also the first time Oregon State has ever won 2 games in the same season in the NCAA Tournament; when they went to the Sweet 16 in 1983, their first game was in the round of 32.
It was a grind early, as Oregon State shot terribly to start the game, making only 4 of their first 15 shots, including missing 7 in a row at one point, and though the Beavers never trailed, they only opened a 5 point, 13-8 lead when Marie Gulich got a put back basket at the buzzer.
But there were 2 key takeaways from the early going. Oregon State got balance, with points from 4 starters, Ruth Hamblin, Gabriella Hanson, Sidney Wiese, and Jamie Weisner in their first 4 baskets. It was an indication of the balance that would strain St. Bonaventure all evening.
The other key development was the job the Beaver defense did in frustrating Katie Healy, the Bonnines' best player, above surrounded by Deven Hunter and Hamblin, who had her 2nd foul not 8 minutes into the game.
Any initial nervousness that the Beaver Nation crowd of just over 6,000 that filled Gill Coliseum almost 2/3 full was quickly dispelled in the second quarter.
After the Bonnines had climbed within 2 points, the Beavers went on a 9-0 run, with Hunter providing 7 of them.
Weisner, the Pac-12 Player of the Year, had had a quiet afternoon in Oregon State's 73-31 first round win over Troy on Friday, but served notice that that was an outlier, and posted 7 of her 11 first half points in the second quarter, as the Beavers matched the Bonnies the rest of the way to the break, and took a 31-21 lead to the locker room.
"I just did what my teammates needed me to do," Weisner said. "I came out with kind of a rocky start, but just kept pushing through it."
That was as close as St. Bonaventure would be the rest of the way, as the "Swish Sisters" stormed out of the locker room, with Weisner burying a 3 pointer, and Weise, whom St. Bonaventure couldn't match off the dribble, put together back to back hard drives for layins.
"Jamie set the tone by hitting that shot right off the bat," Weise said, "then we scored (more) points, and it forced them into a time out."
After a pair of St. Bonaventure free throws, Oregon State backed up that 7-0 run with a 9-0 run, and the Beavers were up 47-23 before St. Bonaventure broke an 0 of 8 shooting slump, and with most of the starters already sitting, Taylor Kalmer pushed the lead to 27 with a 3 pointer to cap the 3rd quarter, as the Beavers surged to a 52-25 lead.
"We had to work and grind, but we finally found a rhythm in the third quarter," Oregon State coach Scott Rueck said.
The Beaver defense held the Bonnies to just 1 basket from the floor, and only 4 points in the decisive 3rd quarter.
Weisner opened 3 different 29 point leads before calling it an evening to a standing ovation with a 23 point effort. It was her 12th 20+ point game of the season.
Meanwhile, Healey, St. Bonaventure's leading scorer, got in more foul trouble, and wound up with only 8 points.
The largest lead was actually 31, on a Kolbie Orum basket, and St. Bonaventure kept the final margin under 30 when Miranda Drummond had 5 of her team high 12 points down the stretch.
Drummond was the only Bonnie in double digits.
Hunter was the only Beaver besides Weisner in double digits scoring, with 11. Weise added 8, but also had 6 rebounds and 6 assists.
Gulich actually out-scored Hamblin, with 5 points against 4 for Hamblin, 2 of which came on the first basket of the game. But the "Canadian Hammer", above blocking a shot by Drummond, had her was in other ways, with a game high 16 rebounds, and a pair of blocked shots.
Notably, Samantha Siegner also had a pair of blocks, part of a key stretch late in the first quarter, when the game was still in question, and after both Hamblin and Hunter had picked up early fouls. It was a turning point in keeping St. Bonaventure from seizing any early momentum.
Oregon State shot only 42%, a figure that will have to improve in Dallas, but the Beaver defense held the Bonnies to just 25.5% shooting for the game. Both teams shot 31% from 3 point range, but Oregon State took and made twice as many shots from long range.
And while St. Bonaventure made 8 of 10 free throws, Oregon State made more shots from the line than the Bonnies took.
Oregon State also controlled the boards, with a +15 advantage, grabbing 48 to 33 by St. Bonaventure.
"Ruth and Deven did an awesome job of controlling the boards," Wiese said, "and then we were able to take care of the ball."
The win also earned some redemption for last year, when, as a 3 seed playing at home, Oregon State lost in the second round to Gonzaga.
"This whole year, we haven't really discussed the Gonzaga game," Wiese said. "It's been an unsaid thing, but we know we didn't want to feel that again."
6th ranked Oregon State, the regular season and Pac-12 Tournament champions, and the 2 seed in the Dallas Regional, improved to 30-4, while St. Bonnaventure, from the Atlantic-10, finished their season 24-8. The 30 wins is the most in school history in any hoops season, women or men.
The Beavers will meet DePaul, the 6th seed, Saturday in Dallas, at a time to be determined. The Blue Demons are 27-8, and were the regular season Big East Champions, with a 16-2 conference run. DePaul advanced with a competitive and controversial 73-72 upset win over 3rd seed and 8th ranked Louisville today.
The other half of the regional will include 1 seed and 4th ranked Baylor (35-1), after the Bears blasted AUburn 84-52 earlier today. The Bear's opponent on Saturday will be the winner of tomorrow's meeting between Texas A&M & Florida State.
(AP photos by Tim Gonzalez)