If the Oregon State women’s basketball entered this season a little under the radar despite amassing 21 wins and making it to the second round of the NCAA tournament last year, it isn’t anymore. After Tuesday night’s 70-55 upset of No. 6 North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the No. 14 Beavers are firmly in the national spotlight.
UNC, a perennial powerhouse, entered the game with an 9-0 record and had defeated four top-25 teams, including Stanford, 70-54. Simply put, this was an unexpected and huge win for the Beavers, who moved to 8-0 for the first time in program history, and will likely move up in the next rankings.
Ruth Hamblin scored 17 points, grabbed 10 rebounds, and blocked five shots to lead the Beavers, while Jamie Weisner added 14 points. Last year’s leading scorer Sydney Wiese scored 13 points despite shooting 2-of-12 from the field. But the real key to the Beavers’ success was defense. They held the Tar Heels to 27 percent shooting from the field, including 1-14 from behind arc. Simply put, that’s fantastic.
But the big picture here is that the Beavers are in the midst of a remarkable turnaround. While a lot is being made of the impact that Wayne Tinkle is having on the men’s team, Scott Rueck’s performance is equally impressive, if not more. Remember, this program is only five years removed from the LaVonda Wagner disaster, which decimated the roster to the point that Rueck had to hold open tryouts just to field a roster.
Slowly, but surely, Rueck has changed the culture, built confidence, and recruited very well. The result? A program that is on the rise — as evidenced by last year’s success and now this season so far. The Beavers are set for next several seasons, as there’s only one senior and a handful of juniors on the roster. Plus, Rueck recently landed a commitment from the program’s first 5-star recruit: South Salem’s Katie McWilliams!
Looking at the current squad, you can’t help but be impressed how well-rounded it is. There’s a nice blend of size, athleticism, and skill. There’s the 6-5 Hamblin who makes it hard for opposing players down low. Alongside her is Deven Hunter, who provides toughness and does all the dirty work. Senior Ali Gibson provides the crucial leadership and is clutch. Weisner is one of the best shooters in the Pac-12. And Wiese could be one of OSU’s top players ever when all is said and done. Off the bench, players such as Gabby Hanson and Sam Siegler provide a nice combo of defense, offense, and energy.
This team is built for success and is clearly enjoying it right now. They play well together and hard every second of every game. It’s a testament to the incredible job Rueck and his staff have done. And that’s why Beaver Nation, amid the excitement surrounding men’s hoops and football, need throw some support behind the team that’s really rockin’ Gill right now. The Beavers have served noticed that they are ready to take the next step…
Go Beavs! (RW)