Beavers excited to get back on court
CORVALLIS — When Oregon State takes the court Friday at University of Tennessee's Thompson-Boling Arena, the Beavers will be looking to get a sour taste out of their mouths.
The No. 6 seed in the Lexington Regional, Oregon State will open the NCAA tournament against No. 11 seed Western Kentucky having had plenty of time to stew over a loss to Arizona State in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 tournament on March 2 in Seattle.
The Beavers (23-7) and Lady Toppers (24-8) face off at 9 a.m. with No. 3 seed Tennessee (24-7) and No. 14 Liberty (24-9) playing at 11:30 a.m.
The winners square off on Sunday for a trip to the Sweet 16.
“It’s definitely not how we wanted to go out,” sophomore guard Mikayla Pivec said of the loss on Monday afternoon after the Beavers found out they were headed to Knoxville, Tennessee.
“That was a frustrating loss for us knowing we were so close to beating ASU and we should have beat ASU. But it just adds fuel to our fire and we’re looking forward even more to this next part of the season and finishing strong.”
The Beavers (23-7), who had played in the last two conference tournament championship games and three of the last four, were done much sooner this time around.
“It gave us some time to think about it and kind of know what we need to do better,” Pivec said. “Seeing other teams playing motivates you to want to play as long as possible.”
Senior Marie Gulich said the loss showed just how quickly the season can come to an end.
“So I think that was a good lesson for us to realize we have to give every possession all we’ve got so we don’t lose focus,” she said. “I think overall we all have a different mindset now. We realize how much it hurts to lose those games and I think the team is willing to learn and work hard and I’m really excited for this.”
Coach Scott Rueck said the loss doesn’t necessarily add any extra motivation for his team.
“I think we’re hungry anyway,” he said. “I don’t think that loss has anything to do other than refocus you. It’s a disappointing game. Let’s take if for what it was and let’s get better.”
Rueck said Monday he was happy with the response the Beavers had shown since the loss.
“I think we’ve done a good job,” he said. “Last week was a great week of practice, (Monday’s) was highly energetic. So I like where our team is. We’re battle tested and that game was just one more game to learn from.
“A tough lesson that night but this team has learned lots of lessons through the year. The Pac-12 has a way of preparing you for lots of different looks. So I feel good about where we’re at as we get ready to prepare for what’s ahead.”
Unlike the past three years, the Beavers will hit the road for the NCAA tournament.
The last time the Beavers played the first and second rounds away from Gill Coliseum was in 2014, the year before the NCAA tournament had the top four seeds in each regional host.
That year, the Beavers were the No. 9 seed and beat No. 8 seed Middle Tennessee before losing 78-69 to No. 1 seed South Carolina in Seattle.
It was the third time in five weeks the Beavers had played in Seattle that season.
“It’s different in that we’ve never had to play on somebody else’s home court,” Rueck said. “If we were to make it to the second round and play Tennessee, that is completely new to us. To me, it’s fun, that’s the challenge of it. Let’s go and see if we can do something, you’re an underdog in every sense of the word on somebody else’s court, let’s go see if we can find a way to win the first one, get to that second one and see if we can steal it. It’s a great challenge.”