When Oregon State dropped a 77-75 overtime decision to Washington State on Jan. 24, it was the Beavers' fifth straight loss and they had not won a game since defeating Colorado on Dec. 6.
The Beavers had been on pause for 29 days since losing to the Cougars the first time on Dec. 19 in a game that saw Oregon State surrender the last eight points in a 61-55 setback.
After the January loss to the Cougars, the Beavers were just 3-5 overall and 1-5 in Pac-12 play.
The chances of being in the NCAA women’s basketball tournament for a seventh straight season seemed dire at best.
But since that Jan. 24 loss, the Beavers (8-6, 6-6) have won five of six and have moved from the bottom third of the conference standings into a tie for fifth with Colorado (10-8, 8-8). OSU swept the season series with the Buffaloes.
The lone loss in the recent stretch came at home to then-No. 5 Stanford in a game the Beavers trailed 49-48 with about 15 minutes left before they ran out of gas after having had just two practices in two weeks after a second shutdown due to COVID-19 protocols.
But the Beavers rebounded about as well as possible — in games and in general — from that loss with a road sweep of the Los Angeles schools, including Sunday’s 71-64 upset of then-No. 8 UCLA that, according to ESPN bracketologist Charlie Crème, has the Beavers going from next four out (third in that group) to in the tournament at this point.
Oregon State also moved up to No. 34 in the NET rankings, which the NCAA selection committee uses to help determine the field of 64, following Sunday's action.
Washington State (10-10, 8-10), which has been talked about as being the fifth Pac-12 team to be in the tournament field, is No. 41 in the NET. Stanford was No. 2, Oregon No. 7, UCLA No. 9 and Arizona No. 12 heading into Monday's action.
It’s been quite the journey for the Beavers to get to this point and the chance to earn their way into the field.
"Everybody in this program, I mean we're used to the tournament and not that we take it for granted but it's absolutely the expectation when you start the year,” coach Scott Rueck said Sunday. “We knew with a lot of new faces, a lot of talent, that we had a chance to get there. The way the season’s played out, obviously that has been in doubt. I mean we lost a couple tough ones in December that man you wish you could have them back. You know the pauses certainly have slowed our progress.”
With that rough start, the Beavers set a goal to be the best team they could be by the end of the regular season. And that appears to be the case after holding the Bruins to a season-low 27.6% (21 for 76) shooting performance and outrebounding the Bruins 45-39.
“We said hey, our goal is to be the best team in this conference by the end of the year,” Rueck said. “I don't care what our record is — and as great as Stanford is, as great as UCLA, Arizona, Oregon and the rest, as great as they are — let's find a way to be the best team playing the best basketball. That's been our driving force to make a case.”
Not only have the Beavers begun to make a strong case for inclusion in the tournament, they are being rewarded for staying the course through so many ups and downs this season.
“It just has finally given us some confidence that we've had,” senior Aleah Goodman said. “… Just playing these two last games and just really kind of gaining our confidence and knowing it's not fake confidence, it's real confidence and we have the ability to be confident in who we are and the program that we're in is special.
“Putting these two games together were really important for what we want to do in the future and then I think it just gives us more determination to go into Eugene and then go into the Pac-12 tournament.”
The Beavers head to rival Oregon on Sunday and a win against the No. 14 Ducks would be one more piece to a resume that is getting better and better as the season comes to a close. Then it's off to the Pac-12 tournament where a couple wins would all but lockup a spot.
“I'm so proud of this team and just seeing their hard work pay off and just kind of what we've been preaching," Goodman said. "The payoff is really special.”
Goodman, who had 20 points, nine assists and seven rebounds in the win over UCLA on Sunday, was named the national player of the week by ESPNW on Monday.
It's the second time she has been honored as the player of the week by ESPNW. The previous honor came on Feb. 25, 2019.
She was later named the Pac-12's player of the week.
Talia von Oelhoffen was also honored as she won her first freshman of the week honor after averaging 16 points and 5.5 rebounds off the bench in the sweep of the L.A. schools. She joins Sasha Goforth as winners this season for the Beavers. OSU is the only conference school with two different players win the freshman of the week honor.
Goodman ranks first in the Pac-12 in three-point shooting percentage at 52.1% (38 of 73) and is second in assists at 5.1 a game. She is also sixth in scoring at 16.6 points per game.
Sophomore post Taylor Jones leads the conference with 8.6 rebounds a game, is second with 58.6% shooting from the floor and is third with 1.7 blocks per game.
The Beavers lead the conference in 3-point percentage at 41.1% (118 of 287) and are second behind Stanford (47.3%, entering Monday) in total shooting percentage at 45.9%.
Oregon State is fourth in scoring at 73.3, just behind UCLA and Oregon at 73.4. Stanford entered Monday leading the conference at 79.0.
Stanford moved up to two spots to No. 4 in the AP poll ahead of Monday's showdown with No. 9 Arizona. The Wildcats were up one spot from last week.
UCLA dropped two spots to No. 10 and Oregon fell one spot to No. 14 after being blown out by UCLA.
Oregon State did not receive any votes after its upset win over UCLA.