Beavers Hang Tough With No. 7 Louisville In Championship
Nov. 22, 2012
PUERTO VALLARTA, Mexico - Ali Gibson contributed a season high 10 points, Patricia Bright added seven points, five rebounds and three blocks and the Beavers stayed close to No. 7 Louisville for the majority of the game, but the Cardinals used a run midway through the second half to pull away from the Oregon State women's basketball team, 61-43, in the championship game of the inaugural Hardwood Tournament of Hope on Thursday night.
The result, which moves OSU's record to 3-2 on the year, was in doubt for much of the evening as the Beavers battled the nationally ranked Cardinals shot-for-shot and possession-for-possession. Heading into the break, Louisville was up just seven, 30-23. The Cardinals (6-0) have led at the break in each of their games this season, but this margin was smaller than they were accustomed too and their tiniest gap of the year.
"I was really proud of the effort," Head Coach Scott Rueck said of his team. "Louisville is really good and they don't really have a weakness. The margin for error tonight was so low and so small. We are a young team in a lot of ways. We made too many mistakes to win the game, but I thought we did a heck of a job staying in it, competing and we are growing up minute-by-minute."
Louisville jumped out to an early advantage and grew its first-half lead to double digits on a couple of occasions, but each time Oregon State had an answer. The Cardinals went up by 11 on a Sara Hammond jumper, 25-14, but Gibson immediately responded with a three to bring OSU back within reach.
Hammond hit another jumper to grow Louisville's lead to 10, 27-17 at the 2:53 mark, before OSU went on a 6-0 run to grab some momentum heading into halftime. Bright made a layup and was fouled, calmly sinking her free throw for the three-point play. Not more than a couple seconds later, freshman Jamie Weisner drilled a long-range bomb with a defender draped all over her to pull the Beavers to within four, 27-23.
The back-and-forth battle continued coming out of the locker room. Louisville extended its lead to nine before OSU dwindled it down to five twice. A Gibson steal of Monique Reid and layup made the score 33-28 with 16:16 on the clock in the second half. Later, the Cardinals were up by nine before a Ruth Hamblin layup and Deven Hunter jumper again brought the Beavers back within striking distance.
Hunter's jumper, a move that saw the freshman make a flawless jump stop in the lane and then rise and fire over the outstretched hand of her defender, was the closest OSU would get the rest of the way, 37-32 at the 13:22 mark. Over the next six minutes, Louisville went on a 16-2 run to take its largest lead of the game, 53-34.
"We're not used to having to play with that little margin of error for that long and I thought it was just a blink," Rueck said of the run that decided the game. "It felt like it was a 60-second spurt where they got it to 10 and then offense became easier for them because the scoreboard put pressure on us. We got tight, they got loose and the next thing you knew it was 15 points."
That stretch saw the Cardinals go 5-for-5 from the field, 4-for-4 from the line and 2-for-2 from deep. Shoni Schimmel hit the triples as part of her 15 points on the night and all five of her field goals in the game were from behind the arc. Sara Hammond also made a couple of free throws and a jumper during the stretch as part of her 17-point, eight-rebound effort.
The Beavers' Bright was named to the Hardwood Tournament of Hope All-Tournament Team after her performances in Mexico. In the three games she averaged 12.3 points and six rebounds and also totaled seven blocks. Her 129 career rejections now place her fifth in Oregon State history.
"She had a great tournament," Rueck said of his senior. "We're looking around our team for who is going to emerge as a leader and I think we have several candidates and several players that did this week, but she was one in particular. She was more vocal than I've ever seen her. She rose to the challenge and wanted the ball down the stretch and set the tone for us on the defensive end."
The Beavers' 2-1 record in Puerto Vallarta was a rewarding experience in many ways, giving the young team the chance to play against the top-flight competition it is sure to see during its Pac-12 schedule. Louisville was the first non-conference ranked team OSU had matched up against since 2008, when it played No. 2 North Carolina at the Junkanoo Jam in Freeport, Grand Bahamas.
"These players are tough, they're competitors and they're winners," Rueck said of what he learned about his squad in Mexico. "I've known that we've needed challenges just like this and I'm very grateful that we got an opportunity to play a team like Louisville. They're great kids, they play the right way, they play hard and the future is bright. We're going to learn from this and get better."
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