Through the first seven games of the season, the Oregon State women’s basketball team has displayed a more aggressive approach to each game as well as the season as a whole.
And the Beavers have needed that attitude facing the schedule that they have.
Oregon State is 7-0 with wins over three teams — DePaul, Missouri State and Miami (Florida) — that could certainly advance to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament come March.
And on Monday, the Beavers came in ranked No. 5 in The Associated Press Top 25 poll, their highest ranking ever; the previous best was No. 6. They finished No. 2 in the final coaches poll following the Final Four run in 2015-16 season.
OSU was No. 7 last week but moved up thanks to a number of upsets ahead of it, as well as an impressive 22-point victory at Miami. The Hurricanes fell from No. 19 to No. 21.
Stanford is No. 1 followed by Louisville, Oregon and Connecticut.
Oregon State earned the top overall seed in ESPN's most recent bracketology projection and is No. 2 in the NCAA power rankings.
Following the victory at Miami, senior Mikayla Pivec said those key wins are “statement” games for a Beavers team picked to finish third in the Pac-12 Conference, possibly the best league in the country.
Pivec said the focus for each game has been “coming out with that aggression and coming out to play to the best of our ability at all times is what we’re shooting for.”
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She said the veteran Beavers recognize more this season how important it is to put teams away from the start, regardless of who it is they are playing.
“We’ve seen in past years what it’s taken to get to great seasons and the NCAA tournament and typically teams that go the deepest are the higher seeds so you want to take the games that are on your schedule and make the most of them,” Pivec said.
“I think we come out trying to execute to the best of our ability and not settle for close games. We had a lot of close games last year and we’re trying not to have any overtimes or fourth-quarter battles. Trying to build our leads early and maintain it as much as possible.”
The Beavers have done that for the most part and are outscoring opponents 81.6 to 59, winning all seven games by double figures. Their average margin of victory against DePaul (Now No. 16), Missouri State (now No. 22) and Miami was 18.
OSU’s opponents are a combined 31-17 but 31-10 against everyone but the Beavers, through games played Sunday.
Pivec said she isn’t surprised with the start but happy with the way the team has grown. She credits the veteran leadership of Destiny Slocum and Aleah Goodman, both juniors, as well as the return of Kat Tudor from her ACL injury. Oh, and the development of freshmen Kennedy Brown and Taylor Jones, who have both started all seven games.
“Especially the steps we’ve taken from the Pacific game where we weren’t executing as well offensively to where we are now, executing both offensively and defensively on both sides of the ball,” she said. “I’m super proud of the growth of our freshmen and how Destiny and Aleah have commanded our offensive sets as well as Kat working herself back into the system.”
The one negative to the season has been the loss of junior forward Taya Corosdale, who will likely miss the regular season due to injury.
“Having Taya would be huge for us going forward,” Pivec said. “She brings a stretch 4 mindset and is able to defend one through five. It’s a huge loss but similar to last year the rest of our team has to rise to fill that gap and that’s what we’re trying to do. I’ve been proud of Kennedy and Taylor being thrown to the wolves having to step up and they’ve done a great job.”
The schedule lightens up in frequency during December with just five games on the slate, the first coming this Friday at home against a 4-4 Hawaii team that is coming off a close 68-59 loss to No. 13 North Carolina State and a 73-60 win over a Texas team that was ranked in the poll entering the season.