If Sunday does indeed turn out to be the last time Marie Gulich plays in Gill Coliseum, she went out in style.
As she has done all season, the Oregon State senior center led the way for the Beavers.
Holding back the emotions of her senior day festivities, Gulich scored a game-high 25 points and grabbed nine rebounds as the No. 15 Beavers withstood USC on Sunday for a 69-63 Pac-12 women’s basketball win before 4,942 fans.
But it was her pass from the elbow to a cutting Kat Tudor with 12 seconds left that helped seal the victory.
The Beavers were clinging to a 66-63 lead when they called timeout with 14.3 left. Gulich took the inbounds pass from Katie McWilliams and hit Tudor in stride for the layup that sewed up Oregon State’s 13th home win of the season.
Coach Scott Reuck said the Beavers hadn’t practiced that particular play in about a month, but went over it in the morning shootaround.
“To put her in a position to pass and dish off to Kat was a pretty special way to finish,” Rueck said.
Gulich was a sensational 12 for 16 from the floor and had four blocks in her possible swan song.
There is still a chance the Beavers could host the first and second round games in the NCAA tournament, thanks to a weekend sweep of the Los Angeles schools. OSU topped No. 7 UCLA in overtime, 67-64, on Friday.
The NCAA selection committee will release its current top 16 seeds on Monday night.
What began with her father singing the German National Anthem ended with Gulich once again being a big reason the Beavers have had so much success the past four seasons.
“I know this might have been the last game and I love Beaver Nation and am super happy I got the opportunity,” Gulich said. “But I really hope and wish we could get another chance. Those hopes are not gone yet.”
Tudor added 17 for the Beavers while freshman Taya Corosdale had 11 and chipped in nine rebounds. Mikayla Pivec had nine points, seven rebounds and seven assists.
The Trojans got 16 points from both Sadie Edwards and Kristen Simon as well as 15 from Aliyah Mazyck.
Oregon State (21-6, 12-4) heads to Arizona on Friday while USC (17-10, 7-9) is home against Utah on Friday. OSU is two games up on Arizona State, who they play next Sunday, for fourth place.
The Beavers trailed 28-27 at the half as USC scored the final eight points to hold the edge at the break.
Much like the loss at USC on Jan. 7, when the Trojans rallied from 17 down in the third for a 65-61 win, it was turnovers that hurt the Beavers in the second quarter.
OSU had 8 of their 12 first-half turnovers in the second period and USC scored nine points off those.
The Beavers had 27 giveaways in the loss but shored that up in the second half Sunday, committing just five after intermission.
“Fortunately it happened in the first half so we could talk about it at halftime and regroup,” Rueck said “… I’m so proud of this group for coming out and taking care of the basketball and making plays on both ends of the floor to win this game.”
The third quarter was a slugfest as the teams combined for 18 free-throw attempts, hitting 15.
The Beavers took a 51-46 lead into the fourth and led by as many as eight twice — on 3s by Corosdale and Tudor — but the Trojans never went away.
The lead reached 66-59 but USC cut it to 66-63 before the Beavers were finally able to close it out.
“It was one of those special days we all hope for,” Rueck said. “This day is typically torture on a coach because you want it to go so perfect. And I think it was torture on our team, too.”
Added Tudor: “Marie’s senior weekend, we wanted to play our hearts out for her and we did.”