Back in the 2013-14 season, the Oregon State women’s basketball team was in the early stages of what turned out to be breaking on to the national scene.
A young Beavers team lost a tight game at home to a Notre Dame team that was ranked No. 2 at the time.
Oregon State then struggled out of the gate in the Pac-12 and was just 4-5 at the midpoint after letting Arizona State storm back late to steal a game at home, 64-62.
But the Beavers, even with losing leading scorer Jamie Weisner to a broken hand after she was so upset she punched a wall following the loss to the Sun Devils, regrouped and won their final nine games in the conference season, including the season-ender against ASU.
They then reached the Pac-12 title game, only to fall short after USC rallied in the second half.
Still, the Beavers had done enough to impress the NCAA tournament selection committee and were awarded an at-large berth to the tournament for the first time since the 1995-96 season.
The Beavers have followed that up with three straight Pac-12 regular-season titles, one Pac-12 tournament title, two trips to the Sweet 16 and a trip to the Final Four.
Since that loss to the Sun Devils on Jan. 31, 2014, the Beavers have gone 113-21 overall.
This year’s team is in a similar boat as the 2013-14 one.
The 2017-18 squad is also young and lost a close home game to Notre Dame, which is currently ranked No. 6 — the Irish were sixth at the time.
The Beavers have also started off slowly in the Pac-12 after being swept at No. 14 UCLA and USC this past weekend.
The loss to the Trojans was similar in that the Beavers let a lead slip away down the stretch — OSU led by as many as 17 in the second half before falling 65-61.
The Beavers turned the ball over a combined 48 times and gave up 59 points off those miscues last weekend.
The 2013-14 team had a first-year point guard in freshman Sydney Wiese and had three sophomores and a junior in the starting lineup along with Wiese.
This year, Oregon State starts one senior, one junior, two sophomores and a freshman. Sophomore Mikayla Pivec has handled much of the point guard duties, and she hadn’t played the position since the seventh grade.
“I think anytime you have a new point guard you are going to see similar things on a team,” coach Scott Rueck said Wednesday morning.
He’s also seen another similarity, one that could help the Beavers have a similar finish to the regular season.
“What I see is the resolve is the same,” Rueck said. “That’s the culture that I’m most proud of with this team. They came in and worked their butts off (Tuesday) and they want to get better.”
The No. 22 Beavers (11-4, 2-2) hope to duplicate the successes of the 2013-14 team, and to do so it begins Friday night with a crucial showdown against No. 18 Arizona State (13-3, 4-0) at 6 p.m. at Gil Coliseum.
After Sunday’s home game against Arizona, the Beavers get No. 8 Oregon in a home-and-home battle next weekend.
The Beavers are 5-0 against the Sun Devils since that 2014 loss in Tempe, with three of those wins coming at home.
The Sun Devils are similar to the Beavers in that they spread the ball around offensively.
Kianna Ibis leads ASU with 13.5 points per game (17.8 in Pac-12 games), while Jamie Ruden (10.8 off the bench) and Sabrina Haines (10.2) are in double figures. Robbi Ryan (9.6) and Courtney Ekmark (9.2) are close.
The Beavers are also balanced with Marie Gulich (16.5), Kat Tudor (12.5) and Pivec (12.4) in double figures with Taylor Kalmer (7.9), Aleah Goodman (7.3) and Taya Corosdale (7.2) all chipping in.
Rueck said the Sun Devils’ numbers defensively are down a bit but their offensive ones are better.
“They’re really doing a great job and scoring inside and out,” he said. “They’ve got scoring coming off their bench as well so they’re deep, they play really hard. That’s the reason they’re 13-3.
“They’ve had a great start to the year so a really tough team coming in as always and we know it’s going to be an absolute fight Friday night.”