Oregon State got off to a good start, got great games from all 3 of their "big 3" players, and buried a bunch of big 3s, and it was too much for USC to overcome despite persistent rallys. As a result, the Beavers took a 63-53 win that advanced them to the Pac-12 Tournament Semi-Finals tomorrow night, where they will meet the winner of the Washington-Stanford game.
The game, a rematch of the Pac-12 Tournament Title game 2 years ago, which was won by USC, couldn't have gotten off to a better start for tenth ranked and tournament #1 seed and 8th ranked Oregon State, the 2 time Pac-12 regular season champions.
Jamie Weisner, the Pac-12 Player of the year scored on the first possession of the game, Sydney Wiese scored the next trip down, and Ruth Hamblin then hit back to back baskets that prompted USC coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke into a timeout not 3 minutes into the game,
Weisner would open an 11 point lead for the Beavers on the first of her 4 3s of the game, and the lead reached 12 after 3s by both Weise and Gabriella Hansen, and Oregon State would never be caught the rest of the way, but it was not for lack of trying by USC.
3 baskets by USC's Temi Fagbenle keyed an 8-2 Trojan run early in the second quarter that pulled USC within 26-20.
Oregon State answered with an 8-2 run of their own that was all Weisner and Hamblin, opening a 34-22 lead with 4 1/2 minutes left in the first half, and Hamblin, above, AP photo, already had 13 points.
"Ruth (Hamblin) capitalized on their knocking down shots from the outside," Cooper-Dykes felt was the key to the game early.
But USC battled back again, with a 9-0 run, and the Beavers didn't score again in the 2nd quarter until a pair of Weise free throws made it 36-31 at the break.
The Trojans pulled within 3 to start the 3rd quarter on Sadie Edwards' basket, with an eye to breaking the Beavers' perfect season record of having gone 21-0 when leading at the half. But Weisner hit back to back 3s to start a personal 8-0 run that forced another USC timeout just over 3 minutes into the second half.
At that point Weisner was 6 of 6 from the field, 4 of them from 3 point range.
It wasn't immediately effective either, as Weisner and Hamblin reopened the lead to 13 points, pushing the Beavers ahead 48-35 at the 3rd quarter media timeout.
But the Trojans wouldn't go away, and went to a 1-2-2 zone defense, and the Beavers didn't score again in the 3rd quarter except for a Weise 3. A scoreless drought of 3 minutes saw USC fight back within 51-44 by the end of the 3rd quarter.
But Weisner, Hamblin, and another pair of 3s by Weise eliminated any thoughts of a USC comeback, or worries about a repeat of last season's late season meltdowns by the Beavers.
"There was not that much talk about it, but it was in the back of our minds," Weisner said.
"We remembered that, and were more focused this time around," Hamblin felt.
"This was experience talking tonight," Oregon Coach Scott Rueck added.
USC got within 5 before the first of Weise's 4th quarter 3s, and within 6 again with 4 minutes left, on the basket that got Edwards to a co-game high 20 points. But the Trojans wouldn't score again, and Weise buried another 3.
And had the scorer not been lazy, and not credited Weise with an assist on Hanson's basket that made the final 63-53, Oregon State would have had all 3 of their "big 3' with double doubles.
Weisner finishd with a co-game high (with Edwards ) 20 points and 10 rebounds, including hitting 4 of 5 3 pointers. Hamblin recorded her 25th career double double, with 17 points and a game high 12 rebounds. And Weise had 17 points, and was credited with 9 assists (that should have been 10). Indeed, only 7 of Oregon Statge's baskets, and really 6, did not come off an assist,
Fabbenle was the only other Trojan in double digits besides Edwards, with 10, and notably,Courtney Jaco was held to just 8 points.
The one big negative stat of the game for Oregon State was the 21 turnovers they suffered, against only 8 by USC. But that was erased by a huge 40-25 edge in rebounding, and the Beavers' shooting.
Oregon State shot 53% for the game, but shot 60% from 3 point range, nailing 9 of 15, which was more made 3s than USC even attempted. The Trojans were held to 38% shooting from the field, and from 3 point range.
"We got timely stops, and made timely shots," was Rueck's summation.
"Defense," Weisner added. "They kept coming, but we kept up the defense, and that was the difference."
Oregon State improved to 26-4 after a 16-2 Pac-12 season, while USC will now have to wait to see if a 19-13 record, but only a 6-12 campaign, albeit in the toughest conference in the country in terms of RPI, and a 1-1 record in the Pac-12 tournament, will be enough to get an at large NCAA berth, or if the WNIT will be in their future.