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Grymek

Oregon State's Joanna Grymek, right, battles Oregon's Ruthy Hebard  for the ball in their game on Feb. 15. Grymek's play, especially on defense, has been big for the Beavers the past couple weeks.

It wasn’t that the Oregon State women’s basketball team played poorly in a 77-68 Pac-12 loss to Oregon on Feb. 15.

The Beavers did hold the Ducks, the top scoring offense in Division I at 90 points per game, 13 under their average.

But there were times Oregon State relaxed or lost a little focus and that allowed Oregon to keep the lead in the eventual win.

But in Monday’s rematch inside a sold-out Gill Coliseum, the No. 12 Beavers made a couple changes and kept their intensity up the entire game.

The result was a 67-62 victory and Oregon’s worst shooting performance of the year.

The Ducks finished 24 for 67 from the field (35.8 percent) and tied a season low with five made 3-pointers (on 22 attempts). And 28 points under their season average.

“I think throughout the season we have seen bits and pieces of our defense really come together but haven’t really played a full game, a full 40 minutes," said sophomore Aleah Goodman. "And I think that’s something we saw on Monday is we really put a full game of really good defense."

The Beavers (21-5, 11-3), who host USC (15-10, 5-9) at 6 p.m. Friday, never allowed the No. 2 Ducks to get comfortable and led for a majority of the game.

Ducks star point guard and leading scorer Sabrina Ionescu did finish with 21 points but was 9 for 25 from the field and missed all six 3-point attempts. She was 12 for 24 in the previous game for 29 points.

“We were just dialed in,” Goodman said. “We were a lot more focused. Everything we did we made sure that we didn’t relax. That was another thing that we kind of struggled with on Friday is we would relax. They would pass the ball and we would kind of stand up and that’s one thing they’re really good at. They wait for you to relax and they beat you.”

Oregon State has been among the leaders in field-goal percentage defense the past few years, and even though the Beavers were 13th-best entering Thursday, they have struggled to find the same consistency this season.

Coach Scott Rueck said he was encouraged by what he saw with his team’s intensity on that end of the court.

“I felt like this weekend our defensive identity, we’ve been talking about that all year long, I felt like we finally may have found it,” he said. “It was almost like we had been faking it all year and then just found joy in it the other night. The team was flying around, communicating at a different level and I thought that was the difference in the game.”

That success could be attributed to the play of the center position. Senior Joanna Grymek and freshman Patricia Morris have both had some improved performances over the past couple weekends.

Grymek, at 6-foot-8, has slowly grown over the course of the season and played a career-best 28 minutes in the loss at Oregon. She had five rebounds and a block in that game — to go with 12 points — and added two blocks and six defensive boards in Monday’s win.

Morris, 6-7, had a couple blocks and nine rebounds in about 14 minutes in the two games. That after going up against one of the premier centers in the country in California senior Kristine Anigwe the weekend before and holding her own.

Goodman and Destiny Slocum both say their emergence has been important.

“I think they’ve realized how big of a presence they have,” Slocum said. “Nobody wants to see 6-8, 6-7 on the floor, I don’t even want to see it in practice half the time.

“So to have them on the floor and for them to realize really what big parts they are in us getting where we want to go is important. These games are really important for them to find themselves and be like, yeah I can be like this consistently every game.”

Goodman said knowing there is that height inside allows the guards to play with a little more confidence.

“Because we know if we get beat we know they are right there,” she said.

That inside presence may be just what the Beavers have been missing, and could play a huge role as Oregon State closes out the regular season and into the postseason.

“That’s a dimension we have not been able to lean upon to this point that is now emerging when we need it the most,” Rueck said. “That’s really encouraging going forward. I’m just happy for them more than anything. They’re seeing themselves differently and they’re having a lot of fun playing basketball right now.”

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Sports Editor

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