Oregon State women come up short in second-round loss to Gonzaga
CORVALLIS — With less than a minute to play Sunday, Oregon State senior Ali Gibson ran off the floor, and before reaching the bench, she was in tears.
The sudden end to what was a record-setting women's basketball season soon hit all of the Beavers hard.
No. 11 seed Gonzaga, paced by Emma Wolfram with a career-high 17 points, held off a furious late rally by Oregon State on its home court for a 76-64 victory in Spokane regional second-round game.
Oregon State (27-5) had hopes to extend a season that included a first-ever Pacific-12 championship and a school record for wins. Instead, the third-seeded Beavers had their season end in back-to-back years with a second-round loss.
But the season ended on a sour note, as OSU lost three of its final five games, including a loss to Colorado in the Beavers' opening game of the Pac-12 tournament.
"We gave great effort today, and this team had an unbelievable season, and once again, was supported in an incredible way. My overwhelming emotion is gratitude. ... I'm sorry it had to end today," OSU coach Scott Rueck said.
Junior guard Jamie Weisner led Oregon State with 24 points on 7 of 15 shooting. But the Beavers had quiet games from two of their top scorers in Sydney Weise and Ruth Hamblin. Wiese scored only seven points after shooting just 1 of 9 from 3-point range, while the 6-foot-6 Hamblin had nine points and four rebounds.
"Shots just didn't drop tonight. It wasn't my day. I'd love to hit shots on days like this to get a win, but I'm proud of how everyone battled," Wiese said.
Gonzaga (26-7) advances to the Sweet Sixteen, heading home to Spokane to face the winner of Monday's game in Knoxville between Tennessee (28-5) and Pittsburgh (20-11). The Bulldogs were also the No. 11 seed in 2011, and also playing in the Spokane Regional, when they made a stunning run to the regional finals before losing to top seed Stanford.
The Beavers (27-5) have never made it to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament's current format. In 1983, the Beavers beat UCLA to advance to the second round when the field was 32 teams.
Gonzaga led by as many as 12 points midway through the second half, but Oregon State tied the game at 64 on Jamie Weisner's 3-pointer with 3:30 to go.
That would be the last points the Beavers would score as Gonzaga had the game's final 12 points.
Sunny Greinacher's layup put the Zags back in front before Keani Albanez's layup just beat the shot clock to make it 68-64 with 1:26 left and time ran out for the Beavers.
Rueck called Albanez's shot-clock buzzer-beater "the shot of the game," adding that "I didn't like the response it brought out of us. We lost some energy right there. We didn't fight like you have to; a little doubt crept in."
The Beavers jumped out to a 9-2 lead, following a pair of baskets from Hamblin. But Gonzaga took control from there, going on a 13-2 run to take a 15-14 lead. During one 10-minute stretch, the Bulldogs hit 13 consecutive shots on the way to a 37-34 halftime. lead.
Rueck said two turnovers immediately after Oregon State took a 9-2 lead helped change momentum.
"You knew they were coming, and we helped them a little bit right there. We relaxed a little there, and they capitalized," Rueck said.
Ali Gibson's 3-pointer tied it for Oregon State to open the second half but Gonzaga took control from there, going up 47-38 on consecutive layups from Elle Tinkle.
The Bulldogs stretched the lead to 53-43 on Greinacher's jumper with just under 12 minutes to go.
Despite the loss, the future remains bright for Oregon State, which loses only Gibson from its current roster.
"It hurts right now, for sure," Wiese said. "But we won a Pac-12 championship, and that's pretty incredible. We should appreciate the good moments and the bad moments, but it's important to go into the offseason to remember the bad moments a little more to give us the fuel."
Gonzaga: Elle Tinkle's dad is Wayne Tinkle, who is head coach of the Oregon State men's team. Tinkle, naturally, threw his allegiance behind his daughter for the game, sitting in behind the Zags' bench.
Oregon State: Weisner played on the same AAU team as Elle Tinkle when the two were kids. ... The two teams met previously in the 2004 WNIT, where the Beavers won 69-64 in Corvallis.