CORVALLIS, Ore. – After putting together one of the best seasons in its history, the Oregon State women’s basketball team was rewarded for its efforts on Monday evening when the Beavers were selected to make their sixth-ever NCAA Tournament appearance. OSU, the region’s No. 9 seed, will travel to Seattle to take on No. 8 Middle Tennessee in the first round on Sunday, March 23 at 5 p.m.
No. 1 seed South Carolina (27-4) and No. 16 Cal State Northridge (18-14) will meet in the other first round matchup with the winners of the two games meeting on Tuesday, March 25. All games of the Women’s Basketball Championship will air on ESPN networks.
Oregon State (23-10), which advanced to three consecutive NCAA Tournament beginning in 1994, had not heard its name called since 1996. Through the completion of the 2013 NCAA Tournament, 254 schools had earned bids in their histories. Of that group, OSU was one of 33 that had not been to the Big Dance since 1996. The Beavers also participated in the NCAA Tournament in 1983 and 1984.
This will be the Beavers’ first NCAA Tournament appearance on the West Coast since playing games in Salem, Ore. and Los Angeles, Calif. in 1983. OSU went 2-1 at the Pac-12 Tournament at KeyArena in the Emerald City from March 7-9 and earlier this year scored a 77-57 win over Washington at Alaska Airlines Arena on Feb. 23, the same venue where it will meet Middle Tennessee (29-4). Oregon State has never played the Blue Raiders.
OSU’s renaissance on the court was spearheaded by the rapid development of a youthful roster which features nine underclassmen among its 11 players. Oregon State won 23 games for only the third time in program history and first since 1982-83. The Beavers went a school-record 13-5 in Pac-12 play and matched their best-ever finish in the final conference standings, tying for second.
Oregon State propelled itself into the school’s first-ever Pac-12 Tournament Championship thanks to a late-season 11-game win streak, which tied the second-longest in program history and was the best since the Beavers won a school-record 14 straight in 1982-83.
During the unblemished run, OSU shot 46.1 percent and scored 66.8 points per game while holding its opponents to 32.3 percent from the floor and 50.7 points per game. Each win during the streak was by at least 10 points and three came by 20 or more. The Beavers’ average margin of victory during the five weeks was by 16.1 points.
This season has already marked the second-biggest turnaround in Oregon State history. Using the official NCAA formula (difference in victories between two seasons + difference in losses/2) the Beavers have already notched a 12-game improvement over last year. OSU’s 1990-91 squad went 17-11 after going just 5-26 the year before, a 13.5-game improvement.
Oregon State has accomplished all this by employing the stifling defense that has become its calling card, while also utilizing a balanced offensive attack. The Beavers’ .349 field goal percentage defense leads the Pac-12 and is seventh in the nation. Since 2006-07 all but one of Head Coach Scott Rueck’s squads has finished in the top 25 in the country in that category. Behind the imposing presence of Ruth Hamblin in the post, OSU is fifth in the nation in blocks per game (6.2). The Beavers also average 43.5 rebounds per contest, their highest mark since 1990-91 (44.5).
Offensively, OSU is 21st in the nation in 3-point field goals made per game (8.2) and 15th in 3-point field goal percentage (.371). The Beavers average 71.0 points per outing and haven’t finished a season averaging more than 70 since 1995-96 (72.8). Four active players (Alyssa Martin, Ali Gibson, Sydney Wiese, Jamie Weisner) are among the school’s career top 10 in 3-point makes. Oregon State shoots 44 percent from the floor, its highest clip since converting 44.3 percent in 1995-96.
The Beavs enjoyed a distinct home court advantage in 2013-14, posting a school-record 14-1 mark in Gill Coliseum. Thirteen of those wins were by double digits and, as part of a difficult non-conference schedule, Oregon State’s only loss in Corvallis came to undefeated and No. 2 Notre Dame on Dec. 29.
This will be Rueck’s first NCAA Tournament as a Division I head coach, but he is no stranger to the annual March spectacle. In 14 years at D-III George Fox, he led the Bruins to seven NCAA Tournaments, including six Sweet 16 appearances and three Elite Eight runs. The perennial powerhouse won the 2009 National Championship after going a perfect 32-0.