Los Angeles – No. 10 Oregon State snapped a three-season losing streak at UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion Friday by running past the Bruins, 83-73.
The Beavers used defense in the first half and shot at a blistering 71.4 percent clip in the fourth quarter to pull away from the hosts. Destiny Slocum led four from Oregon State in double figures with 22 points and eight assists, while Mikayla Pivec scored 21 and grabbed nine rebounds.
Coach Scott Rueck said the game was especially important for the team in the wake of last year’s 35-point loss to UCLA.
“This is a place where we haven’t won for a while, and to come in here with the memories of last year and put them behind us is impressive,” Rueck said.
The Beavers had a tough week, losing key reserve Kat Tudor and Janessa Thropay for the season to injury. Rueck said the team needed to make several adjustments in their absence, and they handled it well.
“I was really pleased with this team’s resiliency and toughness,” he said. “Their courage this week in the face of adversity, having to reconfigure some things and having to play some long minutes tonight.”
Slocum started slowly, going scoreless in the opening frame, and Oregon State shot only 33 percent while holding their opponents to 20 percent. Though the Beavers shot better in each quarter, the Bruins fought back to within three points in the third quarter, and twice more in the second. But a 9-0 Oregon State run in the final period put them ahead for good.
Michaela Onyenwere had 24 points for UCLA, while Lajahna Drummer and Kennedy Burke each added 18, and Drummer grabbed 10 rebounds.
Rueck said the Beavers knew they had to change their schemes if they wanted to beat the multi-skilled Bruins.
“So we did a lot of things that were new, which takes a while to get accustomed to, so you’re thinking a little bit too much early,” he said. “I thought our defense kept us in it (early) and got us some easy looks.”
“Our defense was the key to this game. Our defense held them down and gave us opportunities to play through some of those dry spells and mistakes, and then we settled in and understood where our looks were going to come.”
Rueck said he was even more happy at the maturity of players on the court.
“Our composure and execution was at its best that it’s been all year,” he said. “We switched defenses quite a lot in the second half, and that kept them off balance. Our rebounding got better as the game went on, and that’s when we took control of the game.”
UCLA coach Cori Close said it was her team’s lack of defense that allowed Oregon State to ignite.
“They executed their game plan and played to their strengths,” she said. “I’m disappointed that we didn’t have more effectiveness on the defensive end of the floor. We have a lot more fight than we showed on that end. We have to disrupt on defense. The offensive rhythm of this conference is too good.”
She also credited the Beaver defense in throwing them off.
“We’re built on being able to run in transition on defensive stops, and when you have to go against anyone’s set defense, it’s going to be to their advantage.”
Close also said the Bruins struggled with composure.
“I always say, ‘don’t let our offense dictate our defense,’ and we let our frustration at not getting rewarded effect the game plan,” she said.
Oregon State is now down to nine healthy players – all of whom must now step into different roles and play for longer periods of time.
“Nobody played over 25 minutes a game on this team (before the injuries),” Rueck said. “A couple times we had someone playing 30. It’s fascinating to see how two injuries can really impact our depth. For a while it seemed like there weren’t enough minutes to go around, and now it’s like, ‘can you keep going?’
“The other way we have had to adjust is in people playing different positions.”
Slocum, who played 35 minutes, is optimistic.
“Our execution throughout the game was really good,” she said. “There’s a level defensively and offensively that we’ve reached that we see ourselves carrying on.”
Oregon State travels to USC Sunday, while UCLA hosts No. 5 Oregon.