Perhaps no women’s team in the Pac-12 has had it rougher this season than Oregon State.
And yet, the Beavers seem to be gaining momentum.
Oregon State heads into the final weekend of the regular season - and a potentially defining game against rival Oregon on Sunday - having played just 14 total games, fewest in the conference.
The Beavers had nine games postponed because of the league’s coronavirus protocols. They were not rescheduled.
“For us, it was outside adversity that made us tighter,” coach Scott Rueck said. “There were no fractures and have been no fractures within our group. We’ve chosen to stay together through it and that’s a hallmark of our program. It’s what we expect. It’s what we talk about when we say we are family. Families get tighter through adversity and they problem solve well. That’s what we’ve always done. And to this team’s credit, they’ve done an incredible job of it.”
After opening the season at No. 18 in the AP Top 25, Oregon State dropped out of the rankings with consecutive December losses to Utah, Oregon and Washington State. But the Beavers (8-6, 6-6) have won five of their last six, including a statement-making 71-64 victory over No. 8 UCLA last Sunday.
Over the last six games, the Beavers are shooting 49.8% from the floor, while making 50.9% of their 3-point attempts to lead the nation.
They are led by senior Aleah Goodman, who is averaging 19 points over her last seven games and 16.6 points overall. Goodman made highlight reels last weekend with a three-quarter court shot in a 77-52 victory over USC.
Another reason for the rise is the addition of freshman guard Talia Von Oelhoffen, who joined the team in January after leaving high school early. She’s averaging 11.9 points off the bench.
Rueck noted that Goodman, a senior, has set the tone for the team while it faced the coronavirus shutdowns.
“This team, to their credit, has been relentlessly positive. And I would say that is mostly loaded on Aleah Goodman’s shoulders as our most vocal leader on this team. You tend to go the way your leaders go and she, Taya Corosdale and this team have chosen to control what they can control and to remain positive through it all, to the point where, I mean, I can’t say every single day, but pretty much every day has been fun.”
Under Rueck, Oregon State has been a consistent performer on the national stage, making six straight NCAA Tournament appearances and four straight Sweet 16 berths.
“They’re a very talented offensive team,” Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. “They have a lot of weapons and (Rueck) does an excellent job with their team in terms of running the offense.”
Fourth-ranked Stanford has already clinched the regular-season conference title heading into next week’s conference tournament in Las Vegas. Ninth-ranked Arizona, No. 10 UCLA and No. 14 Oregon are also in the Top 25 in the traditionally strong Pac-12.
Sunday will be rivalry day in the conference to close out the regular season. In addition to Oregon State at Oregon in Eugene, other games include Arizona at Arizona State, Colorado at Utah, Cal at Stanford and Washington at Washington State.
Despite its lack of games, Oregon State currently appears on the bubble to make the NCAA Tournament field. A victory over the Ducks or a strong showing in the conference tournament could cement an at-large spot for the Beavers.
Oregon coach Kelly Graves said there’s a significant difference between this Oregon State team and the one the Ducks beat 79-59 in December in that they’re doing everything better.
“They haven’t played a ton of games,” Graves said. “They’ve a lot of time to focus on them and they’ve done a great job. I think Talia has come in and really helped them, has given them another weapon.”
Rueck said he’s confident Oregon State is coming together at the right time.
“I think we still have room for growth, no question,” Rueck said. “But I do believe that we’re playing our best basketball right now.”
More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/College-basketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25
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