Did that just happen? Beavers make believers
CORVALLIS — For their next trick, they'll pull a rabbit out of a hat, or escape a set of chains in a vault filled with water.
Wait a minute. Oregon State already did better than that.
The ninth-ranked Beavers scored two baskets in the final 2.9 seconds to pull out a see-it-to-believe-it 64-62 victory over No. 19 Arizona State on Friday night at Gill Coliseum.
Mikayla Pivec's shot put — that's what it looked like — from the paint on an inbound pass from Aleah Goodman went down as time expired to give Oregon State (19-4 overall, 7-4 in Pac-12 play) an important win and send the crowd of 5,373 home pinching themselves and asking, "Did that really happen?"
"Nobody in the building will ever forget this one," Oregon State coach Scott Rueck said.
The Sun Devils (16-7, 6-5) left the court in stunned silence. This was snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, and coach Charli Turner Thorne let her players have it in the visitors' locker room afterward.
The Beavers, meanwhile, couldn't have been happier with their thievery. Arizona State was on top for 34 minutes and 33 seconds of the game. The Beavers led for 2:11. Two perfectly executed plays in the closing seconds completed their Houdini routine.
"Great way to end the game, with a lot of people making big plays down the stretch," said Pivec, who fought through a 4-for-12 shooting night to collect 11 points, 11 rebounds, six assists and three blocked shots while playing all 40 minutes. "That's the way it should be for us."
Arizona State went ahead 60-58 when Robbi Ryan — who scored 20 points and knocked down 4 of 5 3-point attempts — sank a jumper with 1:09 left.
Oregon State tied it at 60-60 when Destiny Slocum — who scored 20 points on 8-for-13 shooting — converted a driving left-handed layup with 8.9 seconds left.
The Beavers had two fouls to give but chose to let the Sun Devils shoot, and Ja'Tayla Tapley's 17-footer pulled them ahead at 62-60 with 2.9 seconds remaining.
What did Rueck think of Oregon State's chances to win at that point?
"Not great," he said. "This team, though, has a way about them. This is a highly competitive group, a seasoned group that knows how to win and does what it takes."
Rueck called time and drew up the backdoor play he'd first installed in the morning shootaround. Aleah Goodman's inbound pass went to Maddy Washington, whose backdoor bounce pass to Kat Tudor produced a layup to tie the score at 62-62 as the clock neared zero.
There was confusion as an ASU player picked up the ball out of bounds and threw it inbound to a teammate, who let the ball go out of bounds untouched with the game clock showing .1 of a second. It was an unconscionable error, one Thorne surely revisited in the locker room afterward.
After review, the officials changed the clock to .4, leaving the possibility that the Beavers could catch and shoot rather than just scoring on a tip.
In a timeout, Rueck called for a play the Beavers had once run for Katie McWilliams to beat Washington State. With Goodman inbounding underneath the basket, Pivec moved right to left past a Tudor screen and caught the ball in the middle of the key, launching immediately to beat the clock. The ball bounded high off the back iron, hit the right side of the rim, then tickled twine as time expired.
Did Pivec think it was in?
"I was hoping," said Pivec, who has scored 1,498 career points and will become the ninth Beaver to score 1,500 with her next basket. "I caught the ball and threw it up on target. And we waited ... and waited ... and it dropped in. It was a good feeling."
Arizona State had won the previous four meetings with Oregon State, including a 55-47 decision at Tempe on Jan. 12. The Beavers shot .311 from the field in that one, including 2 for 20 from 3-point range.
"ASU has had our number," Rueck said. "They've been the tougher team. Tonight, they came with a great effort. They hit big shots all night long, they were composed and they made us work for everything.
"It took a big effort to beat them. I know these ladies wanted to beat them really bad. It took everything we had."
Arizona State came out smoking, hitting 6 of its first 8 shots from the field to take a 15-4 lead. It was an uphill battle most of the way for Oregon State, which shot poorly through three quarters — .349 from the field — but got it together down the stretch, sinking 10 of 16 shots the rest of the way. Slocum was the one constant, scoring 20 points on 8-for-13 shooting and making both her 3-point tries.
"(The Sun Devils) challenge you to make plays one-on-one," Rueck said. "It's their style. Destiny has the ability to break people down off the dribble maybe as well as anybody we've had here. We needed her tonight. She's such a great playmaker."
The Beavers also got timely production from Goodman, who came off the bench to score 14 points, eight of them coming in a row — on a pair of 3's and a layup — after they had fallen behind 54-46 with six minutes left. That served up a 54-54 tie, and it was anybody's game the rest of the way.
"What a competitor Aleah is," Rueck said. "We needed the spark she gave us."
The win came at a cost. Freshman center Kennedy Brown went down with a left knee injury in the first quarter and had to be helped off the court. The Beavers wound up going small most of the rest of the way, with the 5-10 Pivec at power forward.
Rueck said he hopes the injury isn't season-ending, but will have more information after a Saturday MRI. He was doing what he could to not let it get him down after Friday's impossibly exciting win.
"We're still forming our identity," he said. "Today went a long ways toward who are we. Nothing was going our way all game long, but we just kept coming. Never say never. I can't give them enough credit for the heart they showed tonight."
Maybe it's the start of something new for the Beavers, who face another tough challenge against Arizona at noon Sunday at Gill.
"We weren't going to get out-toughed this game," Slocum said. "We're not gonna the rest of the year. That's our goal. We're gonna come out every game and compete."
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.