Longtime Notre Dame women’s basketball coach Muffet McGraw won’t be all that upset when her Fighting Irish don’t have to face Oregon State again.

And that’s despite having won the first three games of the series, which started in 2013 when the Beavers reached out to play when Notre Dame needed a game to fill out its schedule.

Sunday was the third battle, a 72-67 come-from-behind win for the Irish in Gill Coliseum.

“We’re looking forward to them giving us our home game back and ending the series,” McGraw said Sunday afternoon. “This is a tough place to play and it’s a long way away. It’s a great game for RPI and a lot of reasons but it’s a long way to come for a game. But it’s been really fun.”

The young Beavers entered the game looking to be tested by an elite program so they could see where they stack up.

And while they showed the ability to be competitive, there was little joy following the game.

Losing, after all, is never fun.

“I don’t feel like you have to lose to learn lessons,” OSU coach Scott Rueck said. “But you want to play against great teams so that you can figure out where you need to go and that’s what (Sunday) was, a test. I thought this team, in many ways, passed a lot of the tests.”

The Beavers led by as many as 11 points early in the third period before giving up an 18-4 run that gave the Irish their first lead of the game.

The teaching moments from the game film will be invaluable as the Beavers move forward, beginning with a two-game road trip to North Carolina this week and then to Hawaii the following week for a two-game tournament.

One area of focus will be on rebounding. The Beavers were dominant on the glass last season as they won their third straight Pac-12 regular-season title and reached the Sweet 16.

But the Beavers have been outrebounded twice in the first three games and gave up 21 offensive rebounds to the Irish. Notre Dame won the boards 47-36 after the teams were even at 24 at the half.

“I think in the first half they didn’t emphasize as much on their end,” said sophomore point guard Mikayla Pivec, who had 19 points, eight rebounds and six assists on Sunday.

“I know we were crashing really well in the first half and I think they just decided to box out a little better. But we gave up too many rebounds, especially offensive rebounds in the second half."

Senior center Marie Gulich, who had 10 points, nine rebounds and three blocks added that Notre Dame’s ability to get out in transition in the third quarter also hurt.

“In the second half it was harder to crash the boards offensively because they were running fastbreaks and in transition so we had to get back faster,” she said. “We just really have to work on those things like rebounding as Scott said. We really have to emphasize that and work on it. But it comes with experience.”

Despite the loss, there were plenty of bright spots and experience gained by a roster with many players who hadn’t been on the court in that type of atmosphere until Sunday.

They more than held their own.

“We’re inexperienced in some areas and we learned lessons because of that (Sunday), but I thought that this was just Beaver basketball,” Rueck said. “I thought we competed like crazy, we made plays defensively, we made them on the offensive end. So I was really encouraged and pleased by the way that we competed and I think it shows that we’ve got great things ahead.”

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Sports Editor

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