March 31, 2024 

Amid uncertainty, Oregon State exceeded all expectations

'To turn a community and a region on its ear [has] been a dream of mine, and we've done that'

ALBANY, N.Y. — All season long, the motto for Oregon State was “helmets on” — a reminder to keep the blinders on and focus only on the present. For a young team navigating the news of the collapse of their conference, the Pac-12, it would have been easy to remove the helmets and throw the season away, fulfilling a No. 10 ranking in the preseason conference poll.

Continue reading with a subscription to The Next

Get unlimited access to women’s basketball coverage and help support our hardworking staff of writers, editors, and photographers by subscribing today.

Join today

“All year with conference realignment, all the things that could be distractions or things that you could talk about, we’ve just put our heads down and controlled what we can control and got to work,” said Oregon State guard Talia von Oelhoffen.

The Next and The Equalizer are teaming up

The Next is partnering with The Equalizer to bring more women’s sports stories to your inbox. Subscribers to The Next now receive 50% off their subscription to The Equalizer for 24/7 coverage of women’s soccer.

During the Beavers’ 70-58 Elite Eight loss to No. 1 South Carolina on Sunday afternoon, one aspect of the game outside of the Beavers’ control was the officiating. The three seed quickly found itself in major foul trouble in the first half, with forward Raegan Beers heading to the bench early with two fouls. Guard Timea Gardiner picked up a third foul just before the second quarter media timeout and didn’t return for the remainder of the half. Moments after Gardiner was relegated to the bench, South Carolina freshman MiLaysia Fulwiley rebounded her own miss and converted on a point-blank layup — exposing the absence of Beers in the post — to give South Carolina a nine point lead.

Later, with under a minute remaining in the first half, Beers was back in the game, but the 6’4 sophomore picked up her third foul and spent the final moments of the half on the bench. Foul trouble forced Beers to play a bit more tentatively from that point on, a major disadvantage against a South Carolina team that is dominate in the post.

“I would have liked Rae to be able to play a little more free in this game,” said Oregon State head coach Scott Rueck postgame. “Three fouls in the first half, nobody wants to see that. The way the game was going, I felt like my hand was kind of forced to have her out there in that second quarter to finish up, to stay close.”

<a rel=
Oregon State Beavers guard Donovyn Hunter (4) looks to make a move on South Carolina Gamecocks guard MiLaysia Fulwiley (12) during the first half in the finals of the Albany Regional of the 2024 NCAA Tournament at MVP Arena. (Photo credit: Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports)

While managing foul trouble, Oregon State competed hard against the best team in the nation in the second half. They pulled within two points, 43-41, at the six minute mark of the third quarter before the Gamecocks barreled ahead on a 15-5 run to end the quarter. The hard-nosed Beavers refused to quit, though, cutting the game back within four points with four minutes remaining.

“Y’all got to see it today — a fearless, gritty, tough display of competitive fire and passion and togetherness that is as inspiring as anything. What’s more inspiring than what you all just watched? … Down 12, going into the fourth quarter. So? That’s all I had to say. We’re down 12 to the No. 1 team starting the fourth quarter. Let’s go. Can we do it? Just fearless, courageous, together, everything that’s right is this team,” Rueck said postgame.

‘Future is bright’

Next season, the Pac-12 in its current form will dissolve and its teams will scatter across the country. Oregon State, meanwhile, will retain the branding of the Pac-12 (along with Pac-12 peer school Washington State) while competing in the 11-team West Coast Conference (WCC) for the 2024–25 and 2025–26 academic years. For the Beavers, the future beyond the next two seasons is a bit fuzzy, though they remain hopeful for a viable arrangement of a “new” Pac-12 conference after the two-year WCC affiliate contract expires.

Add Locked On Women’s Basketball to your daily routine

Here at The Next, in addition to the 24/7/365 written content our staff provides, we also host the daily Locked On Women’s Basketball podcast. Join us Monday through Saturday each week as we discuss all things WNBA, collegiate basketball, basketball history and much more. Listen wherever you find podcasts or watch on YouTube.

All tournament long, Scott Rueck had been getting questions from the media about the uncertain future of the Oregon State program. Those questions, which have been largely centered around concerns of losing players to the transfer portal when the Beavers no longer compete in a Power Five conference, clearly got to Rueck by the end of the weekend.

“One thing I’ll say, it’s hard hearing your school talked about the way it’s been talked about and in a way devalued,” Rueck said. “Clearly I don’t see it that way, coming back to my school and creating a program that has the ability to fill a stadium or an arena, coliseum. To turn a community and a region on its ear [has] been a dream of mine, and we’ve done that. We’ve done it at the highest level, and we’ve gotten to this point a couple times now … We’ve been drug through the mud, just like today listening to you guys talk. I don’t see what y’all see.”

Rueck is right to be hopeful. Oregon State is a young team with a lot of talent that far exceeded expectations this season. Should their starters return, their roster will include All-Regional Team selections Beers and Gardiner as well as a senior leader in von Oelhoffen. Pac-12 All-Freshman selection Donovyn Hunter has a bright future ahead of her and has performed far beyond her age this season.

“I think Donovyn is going to be great,” said South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley. “She’s already great. For her to be a freshman and to get her team in a position of one step away from going to the Final Four means that her future is bright. I mean, the entire program of Oregon State’s future is bright.”

Your business can reach over 3 million women’s sports fans every single month!

Here at The Next and The IX, our audience is a collection of the smartest, most passionate women’s sports fans in the world. If your business has a mission to serve these fans, reach out to our team at to discuss ways to work together.

No matter what happens this offseason, Oregon State has plenty to be proud of this season. Not only did they far exceed preseason expectations, they also managed to stay grounded and maintain healthy perspective amidst unprecedented conference realignment chaos.

“There’s no reason to look at next year. I think all year people have been saying this team is young, this team, no seniors — but we’re still in this year, and we’ve been so present,” von Oelhoffen said.

“It wasn’t ‘let’s see how far we can go and then next year go all the way.’ It was ‘we’re in this year.’ And so I’m sure with conference realignment and all this other stuff going on, all the distractions that we have been shutting out, I’m sure there will be conversations because the future is uncertain for the university. But like I said, this team is so mature and has done a great job keeping the main thing the main thing, and it got us to the Elite 8 and playing right there with the No. 1 overall seed.”

Written by Tee Baker

Tee has been a contributor to The Next since March Madness 2021 and is currently a contributing editor, BIG EAST beat reporter and curator of historical deep dives.

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.