Losing is never easy, and it’s certainly never fun.
But sometimes a loss can pay big dividends later on.
For the Oregon State women’s basketball program, some of those tough loses have led to some of the program’s biggest wins under coach Scott Rueck.
The No. 9 Beavers are coming off one of those setbacks in Saturday’s title game of the Vancouver Showcase.
Oregon State led throughout the first three quarters and was tied with No. 1 Notre Dame with under four minutes to go before the reigning national champion Fighting Irish used a 14-4 run to avoid the upset with a 91-81 victory.
“You know our program, we always use these experiences and turn them into positives so that will be no different this time around,” Rueck said.
A day earlier, the Beavers had a 15-point lead on then-No. 13 South Carolina before allowing the Gamecocks to eventually tie the game; Katie McWilliams then hit the game-winning free throws with 1.9 seconds left.
“The way that we played against South Carolina showed a lot in that we can compete with a team that is used to winning every night out,” Rueck said. “And then we learned some tough lessons down the stretch of that game in giving up a lead, but then we made the plays down the stretch to hold on to the win.”
But doing the same against Notre Dame was a more difficult task as the Fighting Irish were at full strength, getting a boost from the return of Marina Mabrey, who was making her first appearance of the season.
“I thought we embraced the game plan again extremely well, I thought we executed extremely well, we’re just not quite experienced enough yet to close out a team that is that good and that experienced,” Rueck said. “That was evident obviously down the stretch, the last three minutes in particular. So we have to get better in those moments … and that just comes with time.”
Mabrey hit a deep 3 with 3:21 left to start the decisive run.
“I just wished she would have subbed out right before that,” Rueck said. “She hit the shot of the game.”
Rueck said seeing first hand a championship team make championship plays down the stretch to pull out a win is a “great example” for the Beavers.
“That’s obviously a team that we have to go through eventually to get to where we want to ultimately go,” Rueck said. “To feel the intensity of a close-game finish against the best team in the country is only a positive. So now we have that example to operate from the rest of the season. You know for sure we’re going to capitalize on that and so I’m going to get everything out of that game that I possibly can as a coach and our team will be receptive.”
After playing six games in a 13-day span, as well as going hard for three-plus weeks prior to the regular season tipping off, the Beavers took a short break this week.
They returned home on Sunday and the players and coaching staff all had Monday and Tuesday off before getting back in the gym Wednesday to prepare for Saturday’s noon tip with LaSalle.
Rueck isn’t concerned the layoff will hurt the Beavers.
“We have been going hard since really the end of September so for this week to take a couple days off … to catch our breath I think is great, I think is OK and I think it’s perfect timing actually,” Rueck said. “Now, we will recreate game situations in practice, we are very competitive in practice and we also know we have some really tough tests coming up before Christmas and then certainly pac-12 is after that.”
The Beavers have another break after Saturday’s contest, taking on Santa Clara at home on Dec. 9 before heading to Hawaii for a two-game tournament Dec. 14-15 where they will take on Eastern Washington before a showdown with Texas A&M. The Aggies (4-1) are No. 17 in this week’s AP poll.
Odds and ends
The Beavers have four players averaging double figures, led by Destiny Slocum’s 16.8 per game. Mikayla Pivec is chipping in 15.3 while Kat Tudor is at 11.3 and Katie McWilliams 10.8. ... Oregon State is outscoring opponents 80.3 to 60.3 through the first six games. ... The Beavers hold a slight edge on the glass, outrebounding teams 41.3-34.3.