- Associated Press - Sunday, March 23, 2014

SEATTLE (AP) - From the very start, Middle Tennessee was left trying to play catch up with Oregon State.

Despite the efforts of Ebony Rowe, the shooting of Oregon State freshman Sydney Wiese never let the Blue Raiders come close.

Wiese made six 3-pointers and scored a career-high 26 points, and ninth-seeded Oregon State stymied eighth-seeded Middle Tennessee State in a 55-36 win in the first round on Sunday.

Wiese put on a shooting display midway through the second half, hitting five 3s in a six-minute span when the Beavers (24-10) blew the game open. Wiese made 7 of 15 shots, had five rebounds and four assists.

Oregon State will face South Carolina, the No. 1 seed in the Stanford Region, on Tuesday night in the round of 32.

“(Wiese) just dictated the action, step back, knock down some threes. We hadn’t had that happen to us this year. I thought our kids played hard,” Middle Tennessee coach Rick Insell said. “Their point guard did a great job. Any time you have a point guard that’s initiating the offense and taking the team under their wing like she did, even though she’s a freshman, she’s very, very talented young lady.”

For Middle Tennessee, the story has become too repetitive. The Blue Raiders (29-5) were bounced from the tournament in the first round for the sixth straight year, this time after being held to a season low in points. The previous low was 48 in a win over Charlotte.

Rowe, the Conference USA player of the year, led Middle Tennessee with 17 points, but shot 7 of 23.

“Sometimes you have a bad game,” Rowe said. “It’s unfortunate our bad game came this game, but we couldn’t find a rhythm. We weren’t really hitting down anything, nothing was falling our way it seemed like.”

It started bad for Middle Tennessee and never got better. The Blue Raiders went scoreless for the first five minutes and trailed by 11 at halftime after scoring a season-low 15 first-half points.

They twice got the deficit under 10 in the second half, but that’s when Wiese took over.

Wiese scored 15 of 17 points during a six-minute stretch where a nine-point lead suddenly ballooned to 19. Her fourth 3 during the run, from the top of the key and with no Blue Raiders in the vicinity, gave Oregon State a 44-28 lead.

She followed moments later by diving into a pile to force a jump ball that gave the Beavers possession, then hit another from beyond the arc for a 47-28 Oregon State lead.

At one point in the second half, Wiese had outscored the Blue Raiders by herself. Her previous high was 24 points against Oregon.

“My teammates did a really good job of getting me open,” Wiese said. “They do all the hard work. I just have to bury the shots.”

The freshman out of Phoenix was an all-Pac-12 selection in her first season in Corvallis. She was the key to a remarkable turnaround under coach Scott Rueck for a program that was making its first tournament appearance since 1995.

“It’s amazing. It’s exciting,” Oregon State’s Ali Gibson said. “We’ve been working hard. Hopefully it’s a foundation that we can start and keep getting more. We’re all excited. We’re all happy to be here and hopefully it doesn’t end.”

Middle Tennessee shot just 23 percent and was 2 of 17 on 3-pointers. Despite being constant visitors to the tournament, the Blue Raiders have not won an NCAA game since 2007 when they reached the second round as a No. 5 seed.

“We were able to win some big games along the way and win some basketball. I told them in the dressing room before I came in here that I had a great time this year,” Insell said. “I’ve enjoyed coaching this basketball team as well as any teams I’ve had in 40 years. I’m very proud of them.”