Defensive Intensity and Focus Headline Beavers’ Game Plan for Mountain Schools

Senior guard Sydney Wiese is a vital part of the Beavers’ strategy.

Kalib LaChapelle, Multimedia Contributor

In a Pac-12 conference where anyone can get a win given the day, the No. 11 Oregon State women’s basketball team looks to defensive intensity to give them an edge above the rest of the field.

After an unexpected upset at the hands of USC last Friday, the Beavers (23-3 12-2 Pac-12) bounced back to defeat the No.15 UCLA Bruins Sunday afternoon. Still tied at the top of the Pac-12 with Stanford and Washington, OSU looks avoid a similar upset against Colorado and Utah this weekend on the road.

The Beavers defeated both of these schools earlier in the season at home, but nearing the end of the season every team is trying to increase their standing heading into the Pac-12 tournament.

“Colorado and Utah are trying to build momentum going into the end of conference play and really have nothing to lose so they are trying to shake things up for us,” said senior guard Sydney Wiese. “I think we have to expect their best efforts because they are going to be on their home courts and it’s senior weekend for them.”

Colorado (14-11, 4-10 Pac-12) is led by a dangerous backcourt with sophomore guard Kennedy Leonard, who is second in the Pac-12 in assist-to-turnover ratio, and has given teams trouble throughout the Pac-12 season, even though their record might not necessarily show it. Another factor for the game is the higher elevation in Boulder, Colorado, but head coach Scott Rueck says he “doesn’t think it is a big factor” for this weekend.

On the other hand, Utah (15-10, 4-10) is a defensive-minded team that plays around a dominant center in redshirt junior Emily Potter, the Pac-12 leader in blocked shots.

“The Pac-12 on the road demands your A-game,” said Rueck. “Colorado is coming off of a great weekend where they played very well against Stanford and beat Cal. Utah beat Cal as well, so they got a split on that trip.”

Preparation for the games has been all about focus, toughness and defensive intensity for the Beavers who had their worst weekend of the season in terms of turnovers with more than 20 in each of the games. This weekend will be another test, especially against Colorado who leads the Pac-12 in turnover margin at plus-6.

“We’re working on being calm under pressure and breaking the press without turning it over,” Freshman guard Mikayla Pivec said. “We have to stay strong with the ball and attack that pressure.”

“We don’t want to let them outwork us in any way whether it’s getting boards or taking care of the ball,” said Wiese.

With four games left in the regular season, Rueck says that “toughness is number one” for the weekend.

“It’s a road trip and you’ve got a flight in between your games, so you’ve got to be tough,” Rueck said. “You’ve got to be ready for two teams that are building momentum toward the conference tournament, and two dangerous teams for that matter.”