Beavers' half not enough
CORVALLIS — Losses have been an infrequent imposition for Scott Rueck during his last seven seasons as Oregon State's women's basketball coach. That has been especially true at home, where the Beavers have been almost bulletproof.
Stanford put a chink in the brick house that is Gill Coliseum on Sunday, pulling out a 61-58 victory in a defensive tug of war.
Since the start of the 2013-14 season, Oregon State's record is 182-44 overall and 93-21 in Pac-12 action. The Beavers are now 88-9 at Gill since the start of the 2014-15 campaign after falling to the third-ranked Cardinal.
It was the second loss in three games after a 15-0 start for No. 8 OSU (16-2, 4-2). The Beavers have back-to-back games coming up Friday and Sunday against No. 6 Oregon (15-2, 5-1), an 87-55 victor over Stanford on Thursday at Matthew Knight Arena.
It's conceivable the Ducks sweep the Beavers. The last time Oregon State went 1-4 over a five-game span was 2013. The last time they lost two straight at home? Same year.
Sunday's top-10 showdown wasn't decided until Kat Tudor's frantic 3-point shot missed everything as the final horn sounded. Veteran Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer was only too happy to leave the Willamette Valley with a split.
"Oregon State is a terrific team," she said. "We had to battle to win this game. I'm exceedingly proud of our whole team. Our defense was a real key for us."
Stanford forced 14 Oregon State turnovers. OSU shot only .379 from the field and .316 on 3-point attempts (7 for 22). After firing at a .500 clip in the first quarter (9 for 18), the Beavers made only 13 of 40 shots (.325) the rest of the way.
Stanford shot even more poorly, at .369, but was just a little better from 3-point range (8 for 22).
After Stanford's Lacie Hull sank a 3 to break a 55-55 tie with 3:46 remaining, neither team made a field goal. The Beavers went nearly three minutes without as much as a shot. They were also hurt by allowing 10 offensive rebounds to the Cardinal in the second half.
Oregon State came out smoking thanks to Destiny Slocum's hot hand, jumping to leads of 13-2 and 21-11. The junior point guard scored 21 points in the first half on 9-for-13 shooting as the Beavers carried a 36-34 advantage into the break.
"I loved our energy to start the game," Rueck said.
But Slocum made only 2 of 8 shots and scored five points in the second half to finish with a season-high 26, and had little help at the offensive end. Mikayla Pivec had an abnormally quiet game with 10 points on 4-for-12 shooting to go with five rebounds and only one assist. No other Beaver had more than six points.
"Slocum is fantastic," VanDerveer said. "She got going in the first half. Lexie (Hull) did a good job on her in the second half. Mikayla is a terrific player and a terrific young woman. She's tough to stop because she just keeps playing, but Nadia (Fingall) stepped up to the challenge (defensively)."
OSU's freshman twin towers, Taylor Jones and Kennedy Brown, came in averaging a combined 21.7 points and 15.4 rebounds per game, but totaled eight points and 15 rebounds. The 6-6 Brown had 12 boards but made only 1 of 9 shots from the field, including 0 for 4 from beyond the arc. She is 14 for 56 (.250) on 3-point shots this season.
"Our bigs did a great job not letting the two freshmen from Oregon State do what they want to do," VanDerveer said.
Even Slocum faltered down the stretch, blowing a wide-open layup with 18 seconds to go and Stanford on top 61-58. She was fouled with 5.1 seconds left and could have drawn the Beavers within one, but missed the first attempt, then intentionally missed the second. Stanford knocked the ball out of bounds and Oregon State had a final possession with 4.8 ticks left.
The likely candidate to take a potential game-tying 3 was Slocum, but she was the one inbounding the ball. Tudor's contested final attempt wasn't close.
"We ran a play where (Slocum) takes it out," was Rueck's explanation.
The coach offered a mostly positive review of his team's performance.
"We played really hard," Rueck said. "We did a good job of competing and fought to the bitter end. I was really proud of (his players)."
But what happened to the Beavers' offense — 7-for-24 shooting and 22 points — in the second half?
"I honestly don't know," Rueck said. "It was a confusing half, an interesting half. I have a hard time putting words to it. I'll have to watch it (on video)."
One thing that is happening is shooting slumps by two of Oregon State's most important players — senior guard Tudor and junior guard Aleah Goodman. Goodman is OSU's starting shooting guard. Tudor is the first player off the bench.
Goodman shot .394 from 3-point range in earning the Pac-12 Sixth Player of the Year award a year ago and had 13 games in which she made three or more 3-pointers. She started hot this season, making 22 of 38 attempts in the first six games (.579) while making at least three in every game. In the 12 games since, Goodman is 11 for 46 (.249). She scored three points in 27 minutes on Sunday.
Tudor shot .465 on 3-point attempts in 13 games before suffering a season-ending knee injury in 2018-19. In her first four games this season, she was 11 for 21 (.524). In the dozen games since, Tudor is 17 for 62 (.274). She scored six points — all on free throws — on Sunday, missing all four field-goal attempts.
Over the last 11 games, Goodman is averaging 3.7 points, with no double-figure performances. Tudor is averaging 7.8 points over that span, but has yet to find a real rhythm.
If those two aren't scoring, it adds pressure on Slocum and Pivec to carry the load, especially when the freshman "bigs" aren't on their game.
A raucous crowd of 8,667 stuck with the Beavers to the final horn. It was a similar scene to the one the Cardinal experienced at Matt Knight three nights earlier.
"That environment prepared us for this one here," VanDerveer said. "These are great fans. (The Beavers) are a quality team. Scott does a tremendous job with them. Oregon State is a contender for the Pac-12 championship. We're excited to get out of here for a win."
Oregon State still owns an excellent record and will likely maintain a top-10 ranking this week. Sabrina Ionescu and the Ducks loom, however, leaving the Beavers vulnerable to a string of losses they haven't experienced in, well, seven years.
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