CORVALLIS, Ore. (AP) The shots weren’t falling and Oregon State briefly found itself in danger of becoming the first team to lose to a No. 14 seed in the NCAA women’s basketball tournament.
Beavers coach Scott Rueck looked at the first-half box score and immediately saw the problem: defense.
Third-seeded Oregon State turned up the defensive pressure after halftime, as Sydney Wiese scored 23 points and Ruth Hamblin scored 10 of her 17 during a key second-half run to lead the Beavers past South Dakota State 74-62 Friday in the opening round of the Spokane Regional.
Oregon State (27-4) trailed by seven points in the first half, and four early in the second half before taking control of its first home game in the NCAA Tournament.
Though the 6-foot-6 Hamblin led the second-half comeback, scoring five layups during a 12-0 run that wiped out a 36-32 deficit, it was Oregon State’s defense that changed the game’s momentum.
”They had four turnovers in the first half, in probably 35 possessions. That means we’re not enforcing our will,” Rueck said. ”We got two turnovers right away to set the tone, and that turned into transition points. Once we got into rhythm, everybody got a little more aggressive and it feels right.”
South Dakota State (24-9) committed eight turnovers and shot 1 of 9 from 3-point range during the second half.
The Beavers’ defensive surge actually started late in the first half, after South Dakota State had built a seven-point lead. Oregon State ran off 11 consecutive points to briefly take the lead, although the Jackrabbits rallied to lead 34-32 at halftime.
”I think we started to get some traction defensively late in the first half, found our rhythm and found our identity on defense,” said Hamblin, the Pacific-12’s defensive player of the year who had seven rebounds and four blocked shots against the Jackrabbits.
Wiese hit five 3-pointers and tied her season high for points. Ali Gibson added 16 points for Oregon State, which earned its first Pac-12 championship this season. The Beavers, led by Deven Hunter’s 12 rebounds, outrebounded South Dakota State 38-31.
Macy Miller and Megan Waytashek scored 14 points each for South Dakota State.
Trailing 36-32 early the second half, Hamblin scored five layups during a 12-0 run for the Beavers.
”I was a little more aggressive going to the rim. I knew I had to score for my team,” Hamblin said of her second-half surge.
Wiese hit two 3-pointers during the next six minutes to increase the Beavers advantage to double digits, which they maintained until the end.
”They had that stretch in the second half, and we kind of got a little out of rhythm because of that. We needed to be better in the second half. Oregon State played at a high level, and we weren’t able to match that,” South Dakota State coach Aaron Johnston said.
The Jackrabbits had Oregon State trailing early, as the Beavers had six turnovers during the first 10 minutes and missed their first five 3-pointers. South Dakota State took a 28-21 lead on Chloe Cornemann’s 3-pointer when Oregon State went on its best stretch of the first half. Fueled by two 3-pointers from Wiese, the Beavers ran off 11 consecutive points to take a 32-28 lead with 2:35 left in the half.
The Jackrabbits stopped Oregon State the rest of the first half, scoring the final six points to take a two-point lead at intermission.
”We knew they would come in here swinging and try to punch us first, and they did. We beat a very good basketball team,” Rueck said.
South Dakota State: The Jackrabbits came into the game on an eight-game winning streak, all wins by a double digit margin. … South Dakota State is 1-6 all-time in NCAA tournament history, its only win coming in 2009 as a No. 7 seed. … Waytashek scored 10 of her 14 points in the second half.
Oregon State: The Beavers look for another first on Sunday, having never won a second-round tournament game. OSU is 4-6 all-time in NCAA play. … During the past two seasons, Oregon State is 28-2 at home. … Even though the Beavers missed their first five 3-point attempts, they shot 7 of 19 from behind the arc.
Oregon State: Beavers play the Gonzaga-George Washington winner in Sunday’s second round.