OSU beats Utah in PAC-12 home opener

OSU senior guard and forward Madison Washington goes up for a shot against Utah Utes sophomore forward Andrea Torres on Jan. 3 in Gill.

Brady Akins, Sports Contributor

The Oregon State Beavers started off PAC-12 play with a home win against the Utah Utes 77-48 on Friday, Jan. 3 to continue their best start in program history.

The Beavers opened up the game playing strong basketball on both sides of the court, forcing turnovers on defense and creating good shots on offense to start the first quarter on a 9-0 run. The fast start led to a dominant opening period from Oregon State that ended with the Beavers up 24-10.

Despite racing off to a 14 point lead, the Utes hung with Oregon State through most of the second quarter. The Utah defense gained momentum in the second period, holding the Beavers to four field goals on 15 attempts after shooting eight for 14 in the first quarter.

OSU head coach Scott Rueck commended his team’s ability to get off to a strong start, complimenting both the offensive and defensive effort in the early minutes of the game in his post game press conference.

“Defensively, we were stingy to start with and then offensively we got out in transition. We had a great focus to us right off the bat,” Rueck said. “We scored early and separated early.”

With a strong defensive effort from Utah, the game remained competitive in the first half. The Utes cut the Beavers’ lead back down to single digits during the second quarter for the first time since the 4:10 mark in the first quarter. 

Oregon State managed the Utes’ momentum, forcing three straight Utah turnovers in the final two minutes of the second quarter to build up a 37-24 lead going into halftime. The half ended with the Beavers breaking past the Utah defense and reclaiming their double digit lead.

Much like they did to start the first half, Oregon State began the third quarter playing well on both offense and defense, leading to a 13-0 run to start a third period that ended in favor of the Beavers 25-9. From there, Utah was unable to close the gap, and the Beavers held a lead of over 20 points for the entire fourth quarter. 

Oregon State received contribution and support from the players coming off the bench, a pattern that has followed them from their pre-season games and success. The Beavers went into their game against Utah averaging 19.5 points per game from their bench, and ended with 25 against the Utes.

Beaver senior forward Maddie Washington ended the game with six points and eight rebounds, her highest single game rebounding total of the season, and was a key asset from the Beavers’ bench. When asked if she takes pride in having a big contribution off the bench, Washington emphasized the importance she places on taking advantage of each moment she gets in her role.

“Once we step on that court, we’re gonna give it everything that we have in that moment,” Washington said. “No matter what your role is, small or big, just take advantage of it. And I think that’s exactly what I did.”

Washington’s eight rebounds, along with eight more from senior guard Mikayla Pivec and a game-high nine from freshman forward Kennedy Brown, contributed to a successful showing of rebounding for Oregon State. 

The Beavers entered the game against Utah as one of the nation’s top rebounding teams, averaging the second best rebounding margin in the country at 14.2 more per game than their competition. Against the Utes, Oregon State proved they could carry their rebounding skill into conference play, coming away with 44 total rebounds compared to Utah’s 28.

The Beavers showcased similar strengths against a PAC-12 opponent compared to those that they had during their out of conference schedule. 

Despite a final result similar to what the Beavers have seen all year in their 13-0 start to the season, freshman forward Taylor Jones noticed a difference in the look and feel of the game against their first conference matchup.

“I could definitely feel it in the game,” Jones said. “The pace was a little bit faster, the crowd was a lot bigger. I’m excited to see how the rest of the PAC-12 goes.”

The official attendance of 5,629 provided a home team advantage for the Beavers. Rueck, who has been the Oregon State head coach for 10 years, was not surprised by the crowd size and expressed that environments like the one against Utah are what he has come to expect from Beaver fans.

“There’s no place that cheers like Gill Coliseum, everybody that comes in here says it,” Rueck said. “It’s almost hard to explain because it’s so unique.”

The Beavers looked to extend their historic season start against the Colorado Buffaloes on Sunday, Jan. 6 in Gill Coliseum. 

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