Oregon State's women's basketball team hopes what happened during the Play4Kay Shootout in Las Vegas last week is just the beginning of what is to come.
After escaping with a win over host UNLV in the tournament opener, the Beavers went on to capture the title with victories over Quinnipiac (75-60) and previously undefeated Oklahoma State (73-54) in the championship game.
“I was pleased with the way that we competed throughout the tournament,” coach Scott Rueck said Monday night after the Beavers (10-1) wrapped up practice for Tuesday night’s 6 p.m. tip against Arkansas-Pine Bluff (3-7) in Gill Coliseum.
“We knew we would get a great effort from UNLV. … We got an inspired performance no question. It was a big-time gut check of a game but I loved the way we finished. That was pretty much the case throughout the tournament.”
The Beavers trailed by nine with 7:12 left in the fourth quarter before edging UNLV, 62-59, to keep their tournament title hopes alive.
“I think we grew a lot, especially in the first game,” freshman guard Mikalya Pivec said. “Down nine in the fourth quarter and having to battle through some adversity and trying to stay calm under that pressure, that was a huge win for us.”
Senior point guard Sydney Wiese scored eight points in the closing 16-4 run that allowed the Beavers to get the win.
“For us to pull out that win was huge and I think it showed us a lot of what we’re capable of with our backs against the wall,” said Wiese, who earned the tournament's MVP award.
While Wiese and Pivec were honored on the all-tournament team, the Beavers got key contributions from a number of other players to pick up the title.
“We had different people step up at different times and you can just see this team continue to evolve and improve,” Rueck said. “Any little cracks that we may have had are starting to disappear and we’re becoming much more efficient.
“(The tournament) allowed us to compete at a level that is similar to conference and I was really happy with the way they competed and came through.”
It was a coming out party of sorts for Pivec. In the final two games of the tournament — the first two starts of her young career — Pivec scored 34 points and hit 13 of 16 shots from the field. She was 4 for 4 from 3 and 4 for 5 from the free-throw line.
On Monday, Pivec received her first Pac-12 freshman of the week honor.
“She played phenomenal basketball on both ends of the floor,” Rueck said. “She’s really doing a nice job defensively, understanding our scheme, and then she gets possessions for you through rebounding and getting loose balls. And then she’s scoring.”
Pivec wasn’t the only new addition to the starting lineup last week as redshirt junior forward/center Breanna Brown also got the first two starts of her career.
Brown started the same two games as Pivec after scoring 11 points in a win over UNLV in the opener. She finished the tournament with 32 points, 19 rebounds and hit 12 of 19 shots from the floor. Her two free throws late against UNLV tied the game.
“As you evolve as a team you find different lineups that need different things so we’re having opportunities to experiment a little bit with this teams and one of our strengths is our versatility,” Rueck said.
“… We’re trying to be the best team we can be for 40 minutes and so if that means moving a couple of people around then we’ll continue to do that to find those things.”
Now the Beavers hope to carry that momentum into Tuesday’s game and then the Pac-12 opener at home against Washington State on Friday.
“This is a little bit rushed to come back, have one practice and play the next day,” Rueck said. “That’s not typical, but in this case, as we put our schedule together, we felt it was the most appropriate to add a game.”
The Beavers moved up three spots to No. 22 in The Associated Press poll on Monday.
Oregon State is one of seven Pac-12 teams in this week’s poll.
Washington comes in at No. 9, UCLA No. 10 and Stanford No. 13. Arizona State is up to No. 18 while Colorado dropped to No. 20 after suffering its first loss.
California, which is undefeated, entered the poll at No. 21, just ahead of the Beavers.
Oregon and USC also received votes.