Oregon State senior Marie Gulich said Pac-12 play is always a little more personal.
So it was not much of a surprise the visiting Huskies, despite a 6-5 record, put up quite a fight in the early goings of the conference opener against the No. 17 Beavers on Friday.
The three-time reigning conference champion Beavers responded, rallying from an 11-point second-quarter deficit to knock off Washington 75-63 before a Gill Coliseum crowd of 4,247.
“Game 1 in the conference — just great to win it,” coach Scott Rueck said. “Really proud of our effort today. Washington brought a great effort and we knew that they would. (Washington) has been battle tested in the preseason so we knew they wouldn’t be fazed by coming in here. They played fearless with nothing to lose, shot the ball well in the first half.”
Gulich was a big reason for the turnaround as the 6-foot-5 center scored 18 of her game-high 24 points in the second half to propel the Beavers to their 100th win (17 losses) since the start of the 2014-15 season.
In addition to her scoring, Gulich added 12 rebounds and seven blocks (tying her career high) for her fourth double-double in five games.
Kat Tudor scored 14 of her 17 points in the first half, and Mikayla Pivec finished with 11 points, seven rebounds and six assists for the Beavers, who outscored the Huskies 45-27 in the second half.
The Beavers (10-2, 1-0) host Washington State (7-6, 0-1) at 11 a.m. Sunday while the Huskies (6-6, 0-1) head to Eugene to take on No. 11 Oregon (12-2, 1-0) at 1 p.m.
“I thought the team just did a really nice job executing in the second half,” Rueck said. “We played with more poise and we just played to the game plan a little bit more. We just got better as it went on.
“I thought our team did a great job getting (Gulich) the ball where she needed it. Our post passing was excellent and then she did a phenomenal job finishing among the chaos that they create.”
Down six at the break, the Beavers used an 8-2 run to get even on a Taya Corosdale layup after a Gulich block.
Aleah Goodman then drained a 3 to put the Beavers up 41-38 with 5:41 left in the period. It was the Beavers' first lead since 2:29 left in the first quarter.
After a Washington basket, the Beavers went on a 9-0 run, capped by another Goodman 3, for a 50-40 lead.
The advantage reached 53-42 on Tudor’s fifth 3 of the game before Taylor Kalmer’s layup with 1 second left gave the Beavers a 55-45 edge heading to the fourth.
A 12-2 run to open the fourth gave the Beavers their largest lead at 67-47 and capped a 42-11 run since the Huskies took a 36-25 lead with 3:23 left in the first half.
Oregon State was a sensational 18 for 30 from the floor in the second half, including 5 for 9 from 3, while limiting Washington to a 9-for-20 performance and 4 for 13 from 3.
“During halftime we talked about being more poised and being more calm and seeing the floor better offensively and then keep doing what we were doing on defense, just getting stops and all the rebounds,” Gulich said. OSU had a 43-32 advantage on the glass.
Added Rueck: “It was just neat to see us relax and play and compete like we were capable of. I thought we just executed better and our focus was different. Part of their scheme is to make you shoot quick and make you take the shots they want you to shoot as they can control the tempo. I thought we fell into that a little bit (in the first half).”
The game seesawed in the first quarter with nine lead changes. The Beavers led by as many as four — 13-9 — before the Huskies took a 21-20 lead at the end of the period.
Washington opened the second quarter on a 5-0 run to take a 26-20 lead before the Beavers answered with a Tudor 3 and Gulich hoop inside to get it back to one at 26-25.
Those would be the last OSU points for nearly five minutes as the Huskies used a 10-0 run to push the advantage to 36-25 with 3:23 left in the half.
Tudor’s fourth 3 of the half ended the drought and OSU cut the deficit to 36-30 with two Corosdale free throws.
However, the Beavers had four open looks to cut the deficit more but couldn’t convert and trailed by six at the half.
Amber Melgoza had 15 of her team-high 19 points in the first 14 minutes for the Huskies. She had just four free throws in the fourth quarter.
The Huskies had eight points off 11 OSU turnovers and eight more second-chance points. The Beavers had just five total.
Tudor had 14 points on 5-for-9 shooting; the rest of the team was just 5 for 16 from the field.
“There’s no easy games in the Pac-12,” Tudor said. “It’s the best conference in the country and you have to come ready to play every game. The second half we did that.”