CORVALLIS, Ore. – Freshman Deven Hunter had a team-high 15 points and scored 10 of the Beavers’ first 15 in the second half, sparking a 17-4 run that helped the Oregon State women’s basketball team unravel Utah and secure a 54-46 win in Gill Coliseum on Friday night.
The win snapped a 10-game losing streak for Oregon State (10-19, 4-13 Pac-12), while Utah (16-12, 7-10) lost for just the second time in its last seven outings.
“It feels great,” Oregon State head coach Scott Rueck said of the win. “I’m really happy for the team and for our fans that have supported us. It’s not easy pouring your heart out week after week and not getting rewarded on the scoreboard, [but] consistent effort pays off and tonight that happened. I’m really proud of them.”
The Utes, who led by as many as 12 in the first half, took a 29-20 lead into the break before Hunter and the Beavers came out scorching in the second. The freshman from McNary HS had a layup for two, hit a jumper after an offensive rebound, drilled another jumper off an assist from Jamie Weisner, blocked a shot then converted yet another basket and set up her final points of the series by clearing the defensive glass and getting a nice look from Mollee Schwegler for another bucket.
In the first seven minutes of the second half, Hunter outscored Utah 10-4, had three rebounds, a block and was successful on five of her six attempts from the floor. During that stretch, Ali Gibson scored five on a couple of hard drives to the rim and a free throw and Alyssa Martin added a turnaround flip of her own.
“I had one person mention to me after that this was the first game of Deven’s sophomore year,” Rueck said of Hunter. “There’s a growth in all of our freshmen. They’re veterans now. They’ve experienced it all. Now it’s finding [their] game within it. In the previous meeting [Utah] helped off our ‘4’ and dared them to score. Deven took advantage of that tonight and made them pay for it.”
Gibson’s layup with 12:59 on the clock, which capped the 17-4 run, gave the Beavers a 37-33 lead, one which they would never relinquish. Utah would close to within two on a couple of occasions, but OSU always had an answer.
Schwegler drained a three-pointer from NBA distance to extend OSU’s lead to 40-35 and Gibson gave her team a cushion with some tough finishes in traffic when Utah came within two at the 8:39 and 4:18 marks in the second half.
Oregon State was on top 48-45 when ShaKiana Edwards-Teasley hit a nice fade away high off the glass. Schwegler blew by her defender on the next possession, drew a double team and dished to Hunter, who put an exclamation point on her career night with an old-fashioned three-point play to put OSU up 53-45 with 51 seconds left and virtually seal the game.
“When I come off screens they help,” Schwegler said of the game’s final field goal. “Deven made a great cut and a great and-one play. Seeing the defense, knowing our ‘4s’ were open and finding them was important and it obviously paid off.”
In the second half, Oregon State shot 61.9 percent from the floor (13-for-21), while limiting Utah to just 27.3 percent (6-for-22).
The Utes’ Michelle Plouffe finished with 27 points and 12 rebounds, but the rest of her teammates went just 7-for-27 from the floor. Iwalani Rodrigues, who led all scorers with 18 points in the team’s first meeting, was held to just six points on 2-for-14 shooting.
Gibson had 14 points, while Schwegler contributed 10 and a career-high seven rebounds in the win. In addition to Hunter’s work on the block, Schwegler and Gibson consistently got into the lane, finished at the rim or dished out to open shooters. The Beavers outscored Utah 30-16 in the paint.
Oregon State also tied a season-low with nine turnovers, while utilizing a full-court press at times to force the Utes into 13 giveaways that turned into 17 points at the other end.
“Our coaching staff did a great job coming up with a game plan,” Rueck added. “We had a little success [with the press] at the end of our first Utah game and it gave them some trouble. Tonight, I thought that was a big factor.”
OSU concludes its regular season this Sunday when it hosts #19 Colorado at noon for Senior Day.