Scott Rueck knew that Montana Western was going to present a challenge for his No. 18 Oregon State women’s basketball team.
The Bulldogs won the NAIA national title in 2019 and it was the first chance in a game that counts for his new-look team to compete.
That was certainly the case in the first half as Montana Western played a different style than expected. On offense, the Bulldogs flashed a five-out scheme that was a challenge, and went to the zone on defense more than Rueck thought would be the case.
Because of that, the Beavers found themselves in a bit of a tussle at the half, leading just 32-28.
The third quarter was a completely different story as the Beavers nearly doubled their point total in the first half and went on to an 88-54 victory to start the season 1-0 for the 23rd straight season.
“I thought the team just did a great job adapting as the game went on,” said Rueck, in his 11th season. “We got better and better. I thought our halftime talk was important just to come in and talk about what adjustments we needed to make.”
Taylor Jones led five Beavers in double figures with 24 as she was 10 for 13 from the field in 21 minutes. Jasmine Simmons had 13 points off the bench, Aleah Goodman added 12, Sasha Goforth 11 and Jelena Mitrovic 10.
Jenni Weber led Montana Western with 12 and Lilly Gopher chipped in 11.
Oregon State is home Monday to take on another NAIA team in Carroll College. Tipoff is 6 p.m.
The Beavers came out fast in the third quarter as Jones dropped six points, Goforth two and Ellie Mack hit the first 3-pointer of her OSU career to help put the Beavers up 43-28.
It was part of a 15-0 run over a seven-minute stretch between the second and third quarters. After two free throws tied the game at 28-all with 3:28 left in the half, Oregon State held the Bulldogs scoreless until a free throw with 6:33 left in the third.
Goodman’s corner 3 to beat the buzzer capped a 30-point third quarter and gave OSU a 62-37 lead. The Beavers were 12 for 16 from the field as they worked the ball inside and converted throughout the period. Jones had 13 in the period.
One of the main differences in the third quarter, Rueck said, was the defensive intensity — OSU gave up nine offensive rebounds in the first half — and got beat too often for the 50-50 balls.
Offensively, the Beavers simplified things and were able to crack the zone for easier buckets and open looks.
The ability of a team that lost six players and is incorporating five new ones to adjust so well at halftime is a positive sign moving forward.
“It's says that we're able to think on the fly,” Jones said. “Because I mean all season people are going to try and throw different things at us during the game like that we have scouted or just new sets and stuff. So it just shows that we are able to handle everything.”
Oregon State outscored the Bulldogs 56-26 in the final 20 minutes to cap a successful return to the floor that was long overdue after the COVID-19 pandemic shut the sport down back in March.
“It felt unreal to just be on the court with all the girls and just to be able to play a game again,” Simmons said. “The first half was a little shaky but we found our groove going into the second. So yeah, I was really excited with that.”
While the first half may not have ended well, the Beavers did jump out to a 15-2 lead thanks to eight points from Goforth. But the Bulldogs were able to break the lid on the basket and closed the period on an 8-4 run to get within 19-10.
Montana Western heated up from beyond the 3-point line and capped a 14-3 run with a 3 from Gopher that gave the Bulldogs their first lead at 24-23 with 6:43 to play in the half.
Brynley Fitzgerald’s two free throws with 3:28 left in the half tied the game but the Beavers took a 32-28 lead into the half.
Oregon State finished 32 for 62 from the field, including 9 for 28 from beyond the 3-point line, but was just 15 for 26 from the free-throw line.