Beavers Set to Take on Ducks in Civil War

Keenan Puncocher, Multimedia Contributor

Since Scott Rueck took over as head coach of the Oregon State Women’s Basketball program, the team has gone an impressive 11-1 against the Oregon Ducks, dating back to 2010.

Ahead of the upcoming Civil War matchup this weekend, head coach Rueck doesn’t want to focus, nor have his players focus, on past records and streaks.

“I haven’t talked about the streak once,” Rueck said. “I think it’s a distraction honestly, what’s the point of that? It’s a new year with new players and so everything is different. We’re going into this game with a lot to play and compete for and so I think you’d be mistaken if you let your mind wander too far on those things.”

This year’s Oregon Ducks (14-6, 4-4 Pac-12) have struggled with maintaining consistency throughout much of the season. After winning 10 of their first 12 games, the team would go on to lose four of their next eight, including a three-game losing stretch in which the team lost to both Washington and Washington State at home and lost to Stanford on the road.

Despite an up-and-down season, the Ducks are shooting a Pac-12 best 39 percent from 3-point land and average a conference-best 18.6 assists per game.

What may be the most impressive statistic of all is that the Ducks are getting results from young talent. Of the 13 roster spots, eight players are in their second year or below, meaning the Ducks have the second youngest roster, only behind Washington State.

“They’ve got a lot of new faces, have depth and they keep improving each week,” Rueck said. “They’ve been whole since the losses to the Washington schools and we’ve seen steady progress in the way they are defending, the way they have executed offensively and you see their belief growing, which is what you would expect as they eliminate weaknesses from week to week.”

Eliminating weakness is putting it mildly. Currently, the Ducks’ forward Ruth Hebard is shooting lights out 67 percent from the field as a freshman, good enough for best in the Pac-12, while freshman guard Sabrina Ionescu is averaging 4.7 assists per game, which is third best in the conference.

Although OSU sits fifth in the nation in field goal percentage defense at 33.3 percent, a statistic that has not exceeded 33.5 percent in the last three seasons, one weakness is the Beavers’ defense when guarding the 3-point shot. Giving up 31.1 percent shooting to opponents from 3-point range is one of the few statistics in which OSU lags behind the seven other teams in the conference.

“The key is not letting teams run, keeping them in the quarter court, defending like crazy and being extremely efficient offensively,” said Rueck. “It’s not a lot of rocket science, no secrets, but we need to be really firing on all cylinders.”

Between the two teams, eight possible freshmen could receive playing time in their first Civil War series against one another. Two Oregon State freshman looking to make an impact against Oregon for the first time include guards Mikayla Pivec and Kat Tudor.

Both players have thrived so far this season with Pivec starting 11 of 20 games, providing points and rebounds down the stretch, while Tudor continues to shoot an impressive 43 percent from 3-point range coming off the bench.

Despite the heightened excitement that surrounds the Civil War this weekend, both freshmen are committed to staying focused on performing the same way they have throughout the season.   

“We’re 20 games into the season now and we’ve shown that the team is pretty deep and things have begun to settle into place,” Pivec said. “We have to approach (this game) the same way we do for other games, if players play to their tendencies and we execute our set offensively, we should come out with a couple of wins.”

Tudor is confident, citing the way the team has prepared so far.

“I don’t feel pressure because I know that we are prepared for the game and are going to come out strong and do our best as in every game,” Tudor said.

Still, the hype and attention that the Civil War brings is undeniable.

“I don’t necessarily feel pressure, but more so adrenaline than anything else,” senior guard Sydney Wiese said. “You want to treat it like another Pac-12 weekend but there is that added pride to win the state and represent your university the best that you can. I look at it as an opportunity to show what we’ve been working on as a group, doing what we can to make them feel uncomfortable at the same time.”

In this season’s NCAA bracketology seeding released on Jan. 23, Oregon State is currently listed as a projected second seed. Meaning that, as of now, the team is on track to finish as the same seed as last year’s historic Final Four run.

At 18-2, Oregon State currently has a better record than it did on Jan. 26 of last season, when the team was 16-3, proving once again this team has not only recovered from losing star talent but is also improving upon the best season in program history.

“There is a reason to be up for every weekend, certainly this weekend, without question being Civil War, but I could have told you lots of reasons to be excited about the weekend before that and so on,” Rueck said. “There is motivation to beat everybody, but I do go here, it’s my school and so, of course, you always want to beat your rival.”