To be honest, there aren't really any easy road trips in the Pacific-12 Conference.

But the Oregon State women's basketball team faces one of, if not the most, difficult trips this week.

The Beavers (10-3, 1-1) head to the Bay Area to take on California (9-5, 0-2) and No. 4 Stanford (11-1, 2-0). First up is Cal at 7 tonight, followed by a trip to Maples Pavillion for a 2 p.m. game on Saturday.

"It is a difficult road trip. We'll have our hands full for sure," coach Scott Rueck said Tuesday morning.

Rueck describes both teams as "great" with "tons of talent."

First is a Cal team, much like Washington State which came to Gill Coliseum last Saturday, that may not have an impressive record, but has a resume worth respecting. Three of the Bears' five losses came against top-25 teams; they also own a win over a top-25 foe.

Cal did lose twice - 60-55 at UCLA and 74-54 at USC - this past weekend, "but battled hard and are learning lessons," Rueck said. "They've had a tough schedule to this point of the year. They've played on a national scale really well against some of the top teams in the country. Cal will be a very tough opponent and tough game."

If that is the case against Cal, what about a Stanford team that is ranked fourth and has only lost at No. 2 UConn?

"Stanford is Stanford, a team without a weakness basically," Rueck said. "One of the elite teams in the country year in and year out and this year is no different."

According to the Massey Ratings system, the Beavers have a 10-percent chance of beating Cal and absolutely no chance of defeating Stanford (zero percent that is).

But the Beavers will show up and compete, as they have done throughout the season.

They are coming off a weekend that saw them knock off Washington before losing a heartbreaker to Washington State in double overtime.

"The Washington State game was just a tough loss because I felt like we outplayed them a majority of that game and had them," Rueck said. "One basket, one free throw, it felt like this is our night and then we just didn't make the shots and they did. They hung in there and stuck with it and capitalized in the end."

Despite the tough loss, Rueck is encouraged with how the team responded to a 20-point home loss to St. Mary's before opening Pac-12 play.

Now the Beavers need to work on being more efficient executing on offense, Rueck said. OSU scored just 60 and 54 points in the past two games after being held under 60 just once in the first 11 games.

One problem, and it's not really that bad, is the Beavers have had a balanced scoring attack so far with four players contributing nine or more points a game, and seven with five or more.

But the Beavers have yet to find that go-to player in the clutch. It showed in the past two games when Washington nearly overcame a 12-point deficit in the last seven minutes and against Washington State down the stretch and in the overtimes when points were at a premium.

"That's what we have to continue to determine and that's going to be different from night to night for us because we don't have one, two or three dominant players that we can just throw the ball to and say now go get us 20 tonight," Rueck said.

"It's going to be determined on the gameplan, it's going to be determined by our opponents, who they are defensively. That's the challenge for us. We have to manufacture points and when that's the case down the stretch there are some question marks sometimes.

"That's just where we're at and as the season goes on we'll develop those things to where that's more clearly defined."

Sports editor of the Corvallis Gazette-Times and Albany Democrat-Herald

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