Katie McWilliams vs. Stanford

Oregon State's Katie McWilliams, right, tries to run the offense against the defense of Stanford's Dijonai Carrington on Friday night. The Beavers scored a season-low 44 points in the loss.

While the No. 7 Oregon State women’s basketball team took one on the chin Friday night in a 61-44 Pac-12 drubbing at the hands of No. 11 Stanford, coach Scott Rueck knows his team will learn from the setback.

That’s always been the case and probably always will be for the Beavers under Rueck and his staff.

Oregon State (19-4, 9-2) will need to put that loss behind it quickly as the Beavers head to Berkeley to take on a California (14-8, 5-6) team that had a win over Stanford less that two week ago at 1 p.m. Sunday.

“We know that we’re in a tough stretch of the season where you can’t relax for a second and you’ve got to just keep building on everything, whether it’s positive or negative,” Rueck said in his postgame radio interview Friday night. “You have to turn it into more of a positive and you’ve got to keep growing and keep developing. So we’ll be ready to go on Sunday.”

The Beavers have had to build and rebuild throughout the course of the season. The loss of sharp-shooting guard Kat Tudor to a season-ending ACL injury in the Pac-12 opener against Washington State has obviously caused the Beavers to adjust.

The loss of Janessa Thropay to a hand injury at the same time — she was in uniform on Friday night and getting closer to being back but did not play — has also hurt the Beavers’ depth in the frontcourt. 

Throw in the addition of Destiny Slocum at the point and the loss of center Marie Gulich from last season and the Beavers are, in a real sense, still figuring out who they are going to be this season.

And in that development and growth, there are sure to be some hard lessons like Friday night as well as the loss at home to Arizona State three weeks ago.

Fortunately, the Beavers have plenty of options. Now it's trying to figure out the puzzle of who they go to and when.

“Last year it was pretty obvious where we were going, this year it's like we could go over here, we could go over there, we could go a number of places,” Rueck said last Tuesday. “Because of that there’s some gray. So we have to define those things as coaches, the team defines it as we go and each situation kind of defines it as well.

“I just feel like we’re learning the language, we’re speaking it a little more clearly, a little more efficiently and a little more confidently.”

That was evident last Sunday when the Beavers rallied from an early deficit and closed out then-No. 14 Utah for a huge win at home.

While the Beavers found success in that game, they were unable to crack the defense of Stanford on Friday and are now tied with the Cardinal for second in the conference, two games back of first-place Oregon (22-1, 11-0).

But there is a lot of season to go and the Beavers and Cardinal each have a chance to close that gap in the next three games. Stanford hosts Oregon on Sunday, then the Beavers and Ducks play back-to-back games next weekend.

Rueck knows the team he has today is not going to be the same one that almost assuredly plays in the NCAA tournament for a sixth straight season.

“This part of the season is so different than November, so different than December, even early January, it’s just different,” he said. “There’s a different intensity as you’re getting closer and closer to March to where every moment is just a little bit bigger. So you continue to evolve in those moments. This weekend will lead to next and then you’ll keep growing.

“I think good teams continue to evolve all the way to the last minute that they play in the year. The minute that you stop, that would be scary. You can’t stop evolving and growing as a group.”

While that can be maddening at times for fans, it’s the part that Rueck enjoys the most.

“I personally have a lot of fun helping us figure it out and get better and taking something that is maybe a 90-percent play and turning it into 97, not being satisfied with 95,” he said. “This team will continue to improve and they love that process, too.”

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Sports Editor

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