With 5:31 left in the women’s NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 matchup between the DePaul Blue Demons and the Oregon State Beavers, the scoreboard showed OSU with a 70-60 lead. Defense has been the hallmark of this team all season, and the Beavers had the school’s first Elite 8 appearance with their grasp.
Senior guard Jamie Weisner hit two big three-point shots in the next 90 seconds, and suddenly the Beavers were up by 16 points with 3:35 left in the game. There was no way Oregon State was going to give up that kind of lead with so much on the line for the team—and the Beavers closed the deal to improve to 31-4 this season and reach the Dallas Regional Final with the 83-71 victory.
“I am just so proud of this team and what we’ve accomplished over the four years,” Weisner told a live ESPN audience after the win while being mobbed by her teammates. “It’s been a journey. We really started from the bottom. We worked so hard for this.”
Weisner had the game of her career, scoring 38 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. Junior guard Sydney Wiese got the team rolling in the first quarter scoring the first eight points of the game for Oregon State, but it was Weisner who picked up that momentum and ran away with it against DePaul. Wiese finished with 13 points and seven assists, while senior Ruth Hamblin added 13 points and nine rebounds despite sitting for awhile with foul trouble. Senior Deven Hunter added nine points and 12 boards to show that this squad is not just a power trio.
Defensively, the Beavers held DePaul to just 40.9-percent shooting from the floor, while OSU also rebounded the Blue Demons, 42-31. So many of those rebounds (17) were offensive, which enabled the Beavers to hold on to the ball a lot in the second half—keeping DePaul from even attempting shots in an effort to catch up. After taking a 9-2 lead, the Blue Demons trailed for most of the game once Wiese and Weisner got rolling.
The Beavers led 45-38 at halftime, and Weisner told ESPN the focus going forward had to be defense.
“Defense: We’ve got to really crank down on defense in the second half,” the senior said. “They’ve spread us out, and they’ve hit a lot of threes on us as well, so we have to crank down on that.”
The result was an 11-point quarter for the Blue Demons that was more in line with the Beavers’ usual effort in protecting their end of the court. Despite a 13-point lead going into the fourth quarter, OSU Head Coach Rueck was still concerned with DePaul’s capabilities.
“They’re pressuring us,” he noted on ESPN. “We knew they could and they probably would, but I like the way we’ve established ourselves inside. I feel like we’re seeing the floor well, beating them off the dribble and making good plays. We’ve got to take care of the basketball; they’re going to have to increase their pressure, try to turn us over.”
The Beavers survived that last quarter despite being outscored by one point, and now a huge matchup against top-seeded Baylor awaits on Monday night for the right to go to the Final Four. This is what Oregon State has prepared for all season, and the Beavers will be ready for whatever happens.
“They’re a very athletic team,” Weisner noted. “They have an inside presence and they can score from everywhere. We’re going to go to work tonight after we celebrate this one, and it’s going to be a good game. Go Beavs!”