Wiese, No. 8 OSU secure Pac-12 title
SEATTLE — A year ago, Oregon State was an upstart program on the verge of becoming a new powerhouse in the West, only to fall flat in both the Pac-12 and NCAA Tournaments.
Toughened by those failings of a year ago, No. 8 Oregon State rolled to its first Pac-12 Tournament title on Sunday night in part because of a confidence that was absent in the past.
"There was just a different kind of confidence and swagger about them," UCLA coach Cori Close said. "There was no fear."
Sydney Wiese scored 18 of her 21 points in the first half while Oregon State built a 27-point lead and Ruth Hamblin added 23 points and a career-high 20 rebounds in a 69-57 win over No. 12 UCLA to claim the conference tournament title.
After winning at least a share of two straight regular-season conference titles, the Beavers (28-4) capped off their first conference tourney title and earned the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament with a dominant first-half performance.
"Fun is the biggest word you could describe that with," Hamblin said. "We were in rhythm, and defensively we were taking away looks that we wanted to take away. And I thought our preparation showed in that first half."
Wiese was the instigator, hitting four 3-pointers in the first half as Oregon State raced to a 44-17 halftime lead. Hamblin dominated the inside, making 10 of 14 shots and nearly outrebounded UCLA as a team.
Pac-12 player of the year Jamie Weisner added 19 points and Oregon State became the fifth different school to win the Pac-12 Tournament title, although Stanford remains the only school to win more than one. Oregon State is also the first No. 1 seed other than Stanford to win the tourney title.
Last year's conference tournament was supposed to cap Oregon State's ascent to the top of the Pac-12, but the Beavers were surprisingly bounced in the quarterfinals by No. 9 seed Colorado and then in the second round of the NCAA Tournament by Gonzaga.
Committed to making up for last year's shortcomings, the Beavers withstood a late challenge from Washington in Saturday's semifinals before taking care of the Bruins. Oregon State coach Scott Rueck said the team gained determination from last year, when the Beavers won the Pac-12 regular season outright before their tournament failings.
"It tricks you into feeling that it's easy and you forget and it's hard to know until you experience it that you have to keep pressing and you have to keep demanding more of yourself," Rueck said.
Jordin Canada led UCLA (24-8) with 17 points and Kari Korver added 10 points for UCLA, but the Bruins shot just 24 percent in the first half and were 2-of-16 shooting in the second quarter.
"I'm really confident that you will see us learning some really valuable lessons that this loss hurts right now, but it will change us," Close said.
Wiese and Weisner combined for 23 of Oregon State's first 30 points. The Beavers took a 30-15 lead on Wiese's third 3-pointer of the first half, and that was the start of a 17-2 run over the final 5:40 of the second quarter that led to a 44-17 lead. UCLA pulled within 63-54 late in the fourth quarter after a five-point possession, but the Beavers answered with layups by Weisner and Hamblin to end the comeback.
Hamblin had five blocks to get the Pac-12 career record for blocks with 405. She also became the fourth player in tournament history with at least 20 points and 20 rebounds in the same game.
UCLA: The Bruins are now 1-2 in Pac-12 tourney championship games. All three title game appearances have come as the No. 3 seed. ... Leading scorer Nirra Fields had one point and missed all seven shots.
Oregon State: Oregon State has led by at least 25 points at halftime four times this season. ... The Beavers split with UCLA in the regular season but Wiese missed their loss in Los Angeles with a hand injury.
UCLA: The Bruins will likely be a top-four seed and host games in the NCAA Tournament.
Oregon State: The Beavers are expected to be a Nos. 2 or 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament.