CORVALLIS, Ore. (AP) A year of experience after a disappointing tournament exit has Oregon State better prepared this time around.
The Beavers hosted the opening rounds of the NCAA Tournament last season as a third seed, but got upset on their home court by 11th-seeded Gonzaga in their second game.
Now the No. 2 seed, Oregon State is again hosting and will face Sun Belt tournament champion Troy, a No. 15 seed, on Friday afternoon at Gill Coliseum.
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Seventh-seed Oklahoma State will play No. 10 seed St. Bonaventure in the late game with the winners meeting Sunday for a chance to advance to the Dallas Regional and the Sweet 16.
''It's not fun to get beat on your home floor, when people expected you to win. That was a motivator going into this year,'' Oregon State coach Scott Rueck said. ''I think what it did was help us grow up real quick. That's the evolution of our program. I think every program has to go through that.''
Now the players know the kind of pressure both hosting and being the favorite brings, he said. Oregon State is also more seasoned: The team beat Stanford for the first time in 29 tries during the regular season, then claimed its first Pac-12 tournament title.
''We're different in that we have another year of experience,'' Rueck said. ''Last year's team didn't want it any less than this year's team – this year's team just knows what they're doing.''
The sixth-ranked Beavers have won 18 of their final 19 games going into the tournament, going 28-4 to set a team record for most wins in a season. They won a share of the Pac-12 regular season title before beating UCLA in the tournament final.
''I think throughout this season it (the loss to the Zags) has kind of been like that game was a driving factor. We don't want that to happen again,'' said senior Jamie Weisner, who is averaging 17.3 points a game. ''As for this week, me personally, I haven't really thought about it. But I think its shows you have to prepare every day like it's your last.''
Troy (20-12) is making its second NCAA Tournament appearance, and first since 1997. Guard Ashley Beverly Kelley is averaging 20.3 points per game and made the game-winner with 20 seconds left in the conference tournament final against Little Rock.
Casie Johnson, a 6-foot junior forward for the Trojans, is from little Eagle Point, a town of some 8,000 people located in Southern Oregon. Johnson transferred to Troy from the College of the Siskiyous in Weed, California, prior to the season.
''It's just a great matchup,'' Troy coach Chanda Rigby said of Friday's game. ''Being a 15 seed you know that you're going to play a great team. But we feel if there's a niche there and we can find it, we can be successful.''
It will be Oregon State's third consecutive NCAA appearance, and its eighth overall.
Oklahoma State (21-9) fell 61-43 to No. 24 Oklahoma in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 tournament on Saturday. St. Bonaventure (23-7) fell to VCU 59-50 in the Atlantic 10 tournament quarterfinals.
It is Oklahoma State's fourth straight appearance in the tournament. But for the past two seasons, the Cowgirls have faced Florida Gulf Coast in the first round.
Last year, they were ousted in the first round by the Eagles. But the year before, Oklahoma State came out on top and made it to the Sweet 16 for the third time in school history, before the team was stopped by Notre Dame.
The Bonnies are in the tournament for the second time; they went to the Sweet 16 for their only other appearance in 2012.
The Oregon State women aren't the only ones in the NCAA Tournament: The school's men made the Big Dance, too. And that made the Beavers the only program in the Pac-12 with both teams in the top-tier tournament.
Oregon State's men, who haven't been to the tournament in 26 years, play Virginia Commonwealth in Oklahoma City on Friday.
Luckily for Beavers fans watching from home – or work – the timing of the two games works with the men playing in the morning and the women in the afternoon.