February 13, 2024 

Oregon State back on the radar in a big way

Rueck: 'I don’t think I predicted we’d be here'

The day after his team swept the Mountain schools, moved to No. 11 in the national rankings and assumed their spot among the nation’s elite teams, Oregon State coach Scott Rueck was in Los Angeles, at Riviera Golf Course watching his son Cole win the Genesis Collegiate Golf Showcase.

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The tournament, founded by Tiger Woods, is a one-day event pitting the country’s best collegiate golfers. Cole, a sophomore at Boise State, reached a playoff, winning on the second hole with a birdie putt. Cole earned an exemption into the PGA’s Scottish Open with the win and got to rub shoulders with Jordan Spieth, Rory McElroy and Rickie Fowler.

“It was insane,” said Scott Rueck, his paternal pride oozing through the cell phone. “So much fun.”

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Rueck was having dinner with his wife and celebrating, both Cole’s achievement and his own team’s rise to the top echelon of the Pac-12 standings following a very good road weekend against Utah and Colorado.

Oregon State has lurked just off the radar through most of this season, winning a copious number of home non-conference games without a huge challenge, building confidence, even opening the conference with a pair of losses at the Southern California schools to throw people off the scent.
But with March on the horizon, the Beavers (20-3, 9-3) have turned their low-profile into a No. 11 national ranking and they are lurking no more.

They are most decidedly on the radar after an 8-1 run (including five straight wins) through the heart of the difficult Pac-12 schedule, with two wins each over Colorado and Utah, and the lone defeat a gritty 65-56 loss to Stanford at Maples Pavilion. OSU has reached 20 wins for the first time in three years, the kind of rejuvenation Rueck was hoping for after some painful COVID-influenced seasons.

“I don’t think I predicted we’d be here. We had a lot of unknowns going into the season,” Rueck said. “But this team began to grow together, began progressing at a really good pace, and I knew our talent was evident and that we had a high ceiling. I’ve felt that since the beginning.”

Sunday’s win over Colorado was the OSU program’s first road win over a Top 5 team ever.

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Defensively, the Beavers have turned up the heat, allowing opponents just 58.2 points a game during the five-game win streak and holding Utah, one of the country’s best offensive teams to just 44 points on Friday night in Salt Lake City. And Sunday’s 59-point output by Colorado was their season-low. OSU leads the Pac-12 at holding opponents to 34.5 percent shooting and 27 percent from beyond the 3-point arc.

“I hoped we’d be this good defensively. To be competitive in the Pac-12, you have to be a great defensive team and that’s been proven through the years,” Rueck said. “We’ve been talking about it since Day 1, and we’ve done everything in power to get them to embrace that. And they are running with it and taking pride in it.”

Sophomore forward Raegan Beers was named the Pac-12 Player of the Week, the first OSU player since Marie Gulich in 2017-18 to win two conference player of the week honors after leading the Beavers to wins over No. 20 Utah and No. 4 Colorado on the road.

Beers passed Gulich with 28 career double-doubles on Sunday with two years to go.

“As talented and athletic as she is, it’s her desire to be great, her commitment to the defensive end and she has made constant progress since last year,” Rueck said.

Beers, averaging 18.2 points and 11.1 rebounds and shooting 66.5 percent from the floor, has plenty of capable help. Eleven players are averaging double-digit minutes. Junior guard Talia Von Oelhoffen, who put up 18 against Colorado, and sophomore Timea Gardiner, with four straight games in double figures are consistently productive on the offensive end. And freshman Donovyn Hunter, is among the Pac-12’s best young players.

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“This conference is so good that it’s tough to predict wins, but we have risen to every occasion and embraced every challenge,” Rueck said. “I can’t say I’m surprised about that.”

Oregon State, picked to finish 10th in the Pac-12 race last fall, is trailing one game behind Stanford at the top of the Pac-12 standings. But the rest of the schedule is brutal, with a home weekend against the L.A. schools and a regular-season closing weekend hosting Stanford and Cal.

“We have a ton of work still to do,” Rueck said. “There is zero rest for us with the rest of our schedule. It’s going to be a gauntlet.”

Written by Michelle Smith

Michelle Smith has covered women's basketball nationally for nearly three decades. Smith has worked for ESPN.com, The Athletic, the San Francisco Chronicle, as well as Pac-12.com and WNBA.com. She was named to the Alameda County Women's Hall of Fame in 2015, is the 2017 recipient of the Jake Wade Media Award from the Collegiate Sports Information Directors Association (CoSIDA) and was named the Mel Greenberg Media Award winner by the WBCA in 2019.

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