Oregon State wins Pac-12 Tournament behind Hamblin’s career night

Jamie Weisner and Kari Korver fight for a loose ball. Photo by Eric Evans Photography.
Jamie Weisner and Kari Korver fight for a loose ball. Photo by Eric Evans Photography.

#1 Oregon State (69), #3 UCLA (57)

The Pac-12 Tournament didn’t quite save its best for last.

After two days of upsets, and a pair of semi-finals that went down to the final moments, top-seeded Oregon State made sure most of the fireworks of the championship game were the literal ones that shot off the backboard during player introductions.

Once again behind their talented trio of Ruth Hamblin, Sydney Wiese, and Jamie Weisner, the Beavers jumped out to a 27-point halftime lead, and lead by as many as 31 mid-way through the third quarter, in an eventual 69-57 victory, a margin that doesn’t truly capture Oregon State’s performance for much of the night.

It didn’t take long for the Beavers to assert themselves in front of a staunchly pro-OSU crowd at KeyArena, taking an eight-point lead after one quarter. In the 10 minutes that followed, Oregon State played perhaps its best basketball of the season, holding the Bruins to just five points while scoring 24.

Oregon State head coach Scott Rueck said the first half, “might have been the best first half we’ve maybe ever played.”

His players also felt that their performance in the first 20 minutes was uniquely strong.

“I think we defended really well, and then offensively were just calm and making the right reads and seeing the open person no matter what they threw at us,” said Weisner, who was named the tournament’s most outstanding player.

Ruth Hamblin had 23 points, a school record 20 rebounds and 5 blocks in the Pac-12 Championship game. Photo by Eric Evans Photography.
Ruth Hamblin had 23 points, a school record 20 rebounds and 5 blocks in the Pac-12 Championship game. Photo by Eric Evans Photography.

Hamblin, who was named to the All-Tournament Team, and finished with 23 points, a school-record 20 rebounds, and five blocks, said the Beavers’ preparation showed at the outset.

“We were in a rhythm and defensively we were taking away the looks we wanted to take away,” she said.

Wiese had 18 of her 21 points in the first half, while she and Weisner combined to score 23 of their team’s first 30 points.

UCLA outscored the Beavers by five in third quarter, 10 in the fourth, and got within nine with 2:12 to play after reeling off a 21-6 run, but the comeback was too little, too late.

“We had plans to come out and trap and really pressure them, and we didn’t get into that,” said UCLA guard Kari Korver, who finished with 10 points. “We can’t just turn it on in the fourth quarter or the second half. It has to be a full game against a team that’s that good.”

Rueck said his team could have handled that stretch better, but that hopefully they’ll learn from it, and be in a similar position again.

“We did some uncharacteristic things, but man, momentum shifted quick,” Rueck said. “I don’t even know how to explain what I saw in the fourth quarter.”

The Bruins had no answer for Hamblin, and kept UCLA from getting good looks inside all night. The Bruins shot just 31 percent from the field (23 percent in the first half). Jordin Canada, also named to the All-Tournament Team, had a team-high 17 points, while Monique Billings had just five points and five rebounds.

Oregon State also more than doubled the Bruins on the glass, out-rebounding UCLA 50 to 24.

And of the Beavers 69 points, Hamblin, Wiese, and Weisner combined for 64.

“I don’t think you can expect to shut all of them down,” UCLA head coach Cori Close said of the OSU trio. “I think you have to force some other people to take some hard shots, and we didn’t do that enough.”

The victory was also Oregon State’s first-ever conference tournament title.

“To be on that stage, knowing where we were just a few years ago, and to know the entire journey with this group, it’s hard not to be emotional thinking about it,” Rueck said. “To see tears after this victory tonight is really the reason that I do what I do. This is an incredibly special group that deserves what they got tonight.”

Notes from the Tournament:

  • Pac-12 All-Tournament Team, as voted on by the media: Kristine Anigwe (Cal), Kelsey Plum (Washington), Jordin Canada (UCLA), Sydney Wiese (Oregon State), Ruth Hamblin (Oregon State)
  • The 2016 Pac-12 Tournament was the best-attended in tournament history, drawing 27,613 to KeyArena over four days. The old record, 27,415, was set during the inaugural tournament in Eugene, Ore. in 2002. The single session record of 6,543 was set on Saturday, with the hometown Huskies and well-traveling Beavers facing off.
  • On Saturday, the Pac-12 announced that the Tournament would remain in Seattle through 2019.
  • Oregon State’s 27-point halftime lead was the largest in tournament final history.
  • The Bruins are 1-2 all-time Pac-12 Tournament championship games.
  • Quotable: “I thought the guards did a good job of getting beat, and Ruth was there to clean it up for us.” — Sydney Wiese, on Ruth Hamblin setting the Pac-12 career record for blocks.