SEATTLE, Wash. – The Beavers continued their push toward an NCAA Tournament berth with a pasting of Washington on Sunday afternoon. Five players scored in double figures and the team shot nearly 53 percent from the field as Oregon State drilled the host Huskies, 77-57, in Alaska Airlines Arena.
“I could not be prouder of the progress of this group and their belief in themselves,” Oregon State head coach Scott Rueck said. “Their belief in what we do is so evident. This team is playing defense at an elite level, which really fueled us today, and on the offensive end we are playing with discipline and efficiency.”
The win, OSU’s seventh in a row and eighth in its last nine games, moves the Beavers’ record to 19-9 overall and 11-5 in conference play. Both of those marks are the program’s best since 1995-96, which is also the last time Oregon State earned a spot in the Big Dance.
It also keeps OSU tied with Arizona State for third place in the conference standings and two games up on Washington, Washington State and USC, who are all tied for fifth at 9-7. The Beavers need one more win to clinch a top-four seed and a first-round bye at the Pac-12 Tournament.
“I think this team realizes what they’re playing for right now,” Rueck added. “The moments are big, but they’re just playing basketball and having fun together.”
Oregon State’s seven-game conference winning streak matches its longest as a member of the Pac-10/12. Aki Hill’s 1994-95 squad also reeled off seven in a row in league play. It’s also the school’s first winning streak of that length at any point in the season since the non-conference portion of the 1998-99 slate. Since a tough three-game stretch in late December and early January that had the Beavers play No. 2 Notre Dame, No. 23 Cal and No. 4 Stanford, OSU has gone 11-3 to catapult itself onto the national stage.
“Every record this team is breaking goes back to great people,” Rueck sad. “That’s the bottom line. This is a high-character group. They take care of each other on and off the court. They’re best friends, they love each other and that’s obvious in the way they play. They compete, have fun and get better every day. It’s inspiring to watch.”
Sunday’s effort may have been the biggest statement yet. Playing on the road against a UW team that had knocked off No. 3 Stanford during its last home weekend, OSU took all the drama out of the contest. Washington pulled to within two, 19-17, halfway through the opening stanza, before the Beavers took the air out of the gym.
Oregon State closed the half on a 23-8 run to take a 42-25 lead into the locker room and continued the onslaught in the second half. Over the first 4:42 of the final period, the Beavers outscored Washington 18-4, and opened up a 31-point lead (60-29), their largest, on a Ruth Hamblin layup with 14:45 to go.
During that 13-minute combined stretch, Oregon State put up 41 points to Washington’s 12. The Huskies, who hit six of their first eight shots, were locked down and made only six of their next 40 before getting a few buckets late with the game already in hand.
“I would attribute (our success) to the tough schedule we played,” Rueck said. “They’ve been thrown to the wolves and so nothing really fazes them. They’ve seen it all. We came into a place like this and they executed our game plan. Their mindset and confidence is something to behold.”
Conversely, the Beavers had no problem fining the bottom of the net. OSU shot 52.8 percent from the floor, making 28 of its 53 attempts, its best clip in a conference game since Jan. 5, 2008 against Arizona State (.533).
The offense was evenly distributed for Oregon State with five Beavers scoring in double figures. Ruth Hamblin scored 18, grabbed 14 rebounds, handed out a career-high three assists and tallied three blocks. It’s the Canadian’s eighth double-double this season and fourth in the last five games.
Deven Hunter put up 17 on 6-of-11 shooting, Gabriella Hanson added 15 off the bench, Ali Gibson contributed 12 and Sydney Wiese had 11 as OSU put five players in double figures for the first time since its last trip to Alaska Airlines Arena on Jan. 25, 2013.
Oregon State’s first crack at clinching a Pac-12 Tournament bye comes on Friday night at home against Arizona. Tipoff in Gill, where the Beavers are 12-1 this year, is set for 7 p.m.