OSU basketball teams coming together
Observations on Oregon State men's and women's teams after their victories at the Dam City Classic doubleheader before a crowd of 8,110 at Moda Center …
The OSU women tuned up for one of their bigger tests so far this season with a 74-49 rout of Cal Santa Barbara.
• Scott Rueck's 17th-ranked Beavers (8-2) will play host to 9-1 Cal Davis at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Gill Coliseum. Among the Aggies' conquests this season are Washington State and Portland State, but they lost on Sunday, 62-55, to Central Florida.
"They're a legitimately great team, capable of competing with anyone," Rueck said. "They've played some good teams already. It's a perfect precursor into conference play."
The Beavers open Pac-12 action at home with games against Washington on Dec. 29 and Washington State on Dec. 31.
The OSU women took a 41-18 lead over Cal Santa Barbara and then boat-raced the Gauchos through a more competitive second half.
Oregon State outscored the Gauchos (1-8) 27-11 in a sharp-at-both-ends second quarter.
"That was awesome," Rueck said. "We hit another level of intensity. That was the best stretch of the game for us."
The Beavers shot .593 in the first half, including 6 for 8 from 3-point range. They finished at .529 from the field, making 9 of 16 from beyond the arc. No surprise there; they entered the game leading the nation in field-goal percentage (.536) and were third in 3-point percentage (.436).
Six of Rueck's 10 players have 3-point range. Just about everyone can pass. The Beavers had 15 assists on 16 first-half baskets and 23 assists for 27 makes in the game.
• It's hard to maintain intensity with a huge lead, and the Beavers gave up more open shots in the second half. Rueck always demands great defense, and he wasn't satisfied with what he saw for 40 minutes.
"We were a half-step slow defensively in this game, with the exception of a stretch in the second quarter," he said. "We didn't quite see things clearly. We gave up stance and position. (The Gauchos) did a nice job driving, and we kept losing people."
Even so, Oregon State forced 18 turnovers, 10 in the first half, which led to 24 Beaver points.
• OSU's leading scorer was Aleah Goodman, the 5-9 freshman point guard from La Salle Prep who has quietly moved up the ladder to become one of the team's most important players.
Goodman scored 17 points on 5-for-8 shooting. She was 3 for 5 from 3-point range and leads the nation in 3-point percentage at .594. Goodman also had five rebounds, two assists and no turnovers in 22 minutes along with the prettiest play of the night in the second half. She fed Kat Tudor with a one-handed, left-handed bounce pass for a layup off a two-on-one fast break.
"Kat gets out and runs," said the right-handed Goodman, who is averaging 9.6 points. "As a point guard, that's something you need to reward. I knew I couldn't make the pass with my right hand. It was a little awkward. I was nervous I wasn't going to get it there. Somehow, it got through."
Goodman isn't super quick, but she's athletic, handles the ball well and carries herself with the poise of a veteran. The way she shoots, sees the court and competes, she may be hard for Rueck to keep out of the starting lineup.
"In so many ways, she's been ready to go from Day 1," Rueck said. "Now she is understanding our system to the point where she is suggesting plays. I'm very happy with where she's at. The greatest growth is on the defensive end. She's playing at a very high level, especially for a first-year player — but really, for anyone."
Goodman wasn't sure she would be able to crack the rotation this season.
"I was hoping, but we have great players on the team," she said. "I knew it would be challenging. I knew I would have to get extra work in and push myself. My teammates have been helpful in pulling me along and saying, 'Hey, you're good. Let's go."
Goodman, who led La Salle to a pair of Class 5A titles, said participating in the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League helped prepare her for college ball.
"But the defensive end is really different (at the college level)," she said. "You can't prepare for anything like that. It's not like there is a weak link on the floor. You have to guard everyone. There's no one who can't break you down on the dribble, or pull up and make a 3. Defense has been the biggest transition, but the coaches call me out on it when I don't do it right."
• Another freshman, Taya Corosdale, is earning more playing time, too. The 6-3 forward from Bothell, Washington, drew her first start of the year and scored 10 points on 4-for-5 shooting, including 2 for 3 from the 3-point line.
• The other recruit, 6-8 JC transfer Joanna Grymek, will help out off the bench because she's so big and can block shots. But she is having trouble collaring entry passes, and she needs to learn how to jump.
• Center Marie Gulich is even more self-assured this year than she was a year ago, when she was first-team all-Pac-12. She's money shooting from the elbow. She also seems a better defender, blocking four shots against the Gauchos.
• Tudor is 33 for 81 on 3-point attempts (.407). The 6-foot sophomore has a shot at breaking Sydney Wiese's single-season 3-point record of 112 set in 2013-14.
• Junior forward Katie McWilliams is such a skilled player, I wish she would look more for her own shot. She was 0 for 2 from the field in 26 minutes against the Gauchos. That shouldn't happen.
• Conversely, sophomore point guard Mikayla Pivec has a great handle on how many shots are necessary for her to take. Against UCSB, she was 3 for 8 but had eight points, seven rebounds and six assists in 20 minutes. Her teammates were getting and making shots. There will be nights when Pivec is called upon to carry more of the scoring load.
Unlike a year ago, when she was a sometimes timid freshman, Pivec has the confidence to take the big shot now.
• The Beavers shot 15 free throws, making 11 against UCSB. The Gauchos were 0 for 0. Not sure that I have ever seen that before in a D-I game, men or women. OSU was called for three fouls the entire game.
• By means of comparison, Oregon State's winning margin over UCSB was almost identical to the Gauchos' 74-44 loss at 11th-ranked UCLA in its last outing on Dec. 3.
Let's switch over to the Oregon State men, a 63-60 victory over Saint Louis to run their record to 8-3 with their sixth straight win, a high during coach Wayne Tinkles three-plus seasons at OSU …
• For perspective, the Beavers finished 5-27 a year ago, so the improvement is tangible.
They could be 11-0. They had chances late in all three losses — 75-66 to Wyoming, 82-77 to St. Johns and 74-69 to Long Beach State. In the latter two, the Beavers couldn't close out games despite holding a lead down the stretch.
On the other hand, they could be 4-7, had they lost close games in which they managed to hang on and win.
Saint Louis (5-6) is a mediocre team with no starter taller than 6-7, so a win over the Billikens doesn't mean the Beavers are postseason tournament-bound. But it may have been their most encouraging victory so far; they fell behind 41-32 early in the second half on a night when several OSU players were feeling under the weather.
"We found a way to gut that one out," said Tres Tinkle, the coach's son, who led the way with 16 points and eight rebounds. "At halftime, we were in a fog. We were thinking about the wrong things. It came down to whether we wanted to win tonight."
The Beavers did. They battled and, despite shooting only .413 from the field — conservatively blowing 10 layups — and missing 10 free throws, they prevailed. After jumping to an 18-7 lead in the first eight minutes, they scored only eight more points the rest of the half.
"We weren't at our best, but we found a way to win," Coach Tinkle said. "(The Billikens) were the tougher team for 20, maybe 25 minutes. But our guys responded down the stretch. This team is starting to build some (character) that we've been lacking."
• At one point late in the first half, Oregon State was 3 for 9 from the line. The Beavers closed 16 for 20 to finish 19 for 29, but that's still not good enough in the Pac-12.
• Both teams had 13 offensive rebounds, but the shorter Billikens had the best of it early.
"They were the aggressors," Wayne Tinkle said. "We challenged our guys during timeouts. We couldn't get a rebound for a while."
• There is little question Oregon State is a much better defensive team than it was a year ago. The Beavers hustled and communicated at the defensive end and held Saint Louis to 4 for 15 from 3-point range.
Tinkle went to a 3-2 zone through much of the second half. It was a change of pace that stymied the Billikens for a while.
"Our guys showed some grit," the OSU coach said.
• To maximize their offensive potential, the Beavers need to get Tres Tinkle 15 shots a game and center Drew Eubanks 12. Tinkle was 5 for 11 against Saint Louis. Eubanks, who finished with 12 points, six boards, three steals and two blocked shots, was 6 for 8. He has had as many as a dozen field-goal attempts only once this season.
"Part of that is on Drew," Wayne Tinkle said. "He has to continue to work to get himself open."
• The play of the game came with Oregon State clinging to a 59-57 lead inside the final minute. Stevie Thompson Jr. found Eubanks for his only dunk of the game off a pick-and-roll for a 61-57 advantage with 21 seconds to go. It was the kind of execution that was missing most of the game for the Beavers.
• Coach Tinkle considers senior forward Seth Berger — a transfer from Massachusetts who has started the last six games — a great locker room presence, a savvy defender and team leader. But you still have to provide some production, and he's not doing it. The 6-8 Berger scored one point on 0-for-5 shooting and had three rebounds in 13 minutes. He averages 2.1 points and 1.4 rebounds.
• A player who may get some of Berger's minutes is 6-8 sophomore Ben Kone, who only recently debuted this season after offseason knee surgery. Kone came on late in the game and provided some toughness, grabbing three rebounds, going 2 for 2 at the line and playing some strong interior defense.
At the time Kone entered, "we couldn't get a rebound to save our life," Tinkle said. "It seemed like we couldn't hit our butts with either hand from the free-throw stripe, and he hit two. He's an option who will help with our depth."
• Alfred Hollins will likely develop enough to earn more playing time. The 6-6 freshman is athletic, can shoot and handle fairly well. He'll be a bigger factor as the season wears on.
• The Beavers have plenty of shooting guards (Stevie Thompson Jr., Ethan Thompson, Kendal Manuel, Zach Reichle) but no true point guard other than Ronnie Stacy, who simply isn't good enough offensively.
Tinkle has three big-man recruits signed to join the program next year; he should look to add a JC point guard who can handle pressure and distribute the ball to the Beavers' many shooters.
• Reserve center Gligorije Rakocevic pulled a calf muscle in the second half and was on crutches as he left Moda Center. The severity of the injury is unknown, but he will be out for a while.
• After last season's lack of success, Coach Tinkle said his players are finally starting to believe again.
"These guys have been through a lot," he said. "There has been a little bit of apprehension, a little bit of fear of failure. The way to rid ourselves of that doubt is to pin our ears back and give it all we've got. I am seeing more of that now. When we get to conference play, we can do it then, too."
The Beavers have one more nonconference game — at Kent State (5-5) at 4 p.m. Thursday — before beginning their Pac-12 slate at home against Colorado on Dec. 29.