Oregon State hopes to add another in a season of firsts
CORVALLIS, Ore. (AP) In this season of firsts for the Oregon State women's basketball team, the third-seeded Beavers try for another milestone Sunday against No. 11 Gonzaga.
Among Oregon State's firsts this season is a Pacific-12 championship and a school-record 27 wins. The Beavers hope to add to the list of accomplishments by winning their first-ever second-round NCAA Tournament game.
OSU is 4-6 all-time in the NCAA Tournament. Last year, the Beavers (27-4) reached the second round, where they fell to top seed South Carolina 78-69. All but one player returns from Oregon State's 2014 tournament team.
''We know what to expect with this game due to our experience from last year,'' OSU junior forward Deven Hunter said.
After losing its Pac-12 tournament opener to Colorado then struggling during the first half of Friday's opening round game against South Dakota State, the Beavers felt like they found themselves during the final 20 minutes of their 74-62 win over the Jackrabbits.
''I loved the way we played the second half and now we are looking to carry that momentum forward,'' Oregon State coach Scott Rueck said.
Sunday's game features the Northwest's two remaining teams in the women's tournament.
''It's not the same conference type situation, but it does have a (Northwest) feel,'' Gonzaga coach Lisa Fortier said. ''We have a lot of familiarity with each other and I think that adds to the excitement of the game. I have some background and knowledge about the Oregon State program.''
Gonzaga (25-7) has additional incentive to beat Oregon State, as the winner advances to play in the regional semifinal in Spokane.
This is familiar territory for the Bulldogs, in more ways than one.
In 2011, the 11th-seeded Bulldogs, also playing in the Spokane Regional, made a stunning run to the regional finals before losing to Stanford.
ROOTING FOR BOTH SIDES: Wayne Tinkle, Oregon State men's basketball coach, has reason to pull for both teams Sunday. The Beavers angle is obvious, but there's a deeper connection for Tinkle at Gonzaga as his daughter Elle is a starting guard for the Bulldogs.
During Friday's opening round, Tinkle wore an orange vest during the Oregon State game, then changed into a red zip-up sweatshirt for Gonzaga-George Washington.
Tinkle said he would likely stick with wearing red for the second-round game.
''I've been with Oregon State for 10 months. I've been with Elle for 21 years. I want both teams to play well and it would be nice to see my daughter's team advance,'' Tinkle said.
GREINACHER RETURNS TO OREGON: Sunny Greinacher, Gonzaga's 6-4 senior forward from Germany, has some familiarity with the Willamette Valley. As a high school sophomore, Greinacher was a foreign exchange student at Willamette of Eugene. Greinacher was Oregon's Class 5A player of the year and led the Wolverines to a state championship that year.
NOT A STORIED SERIES: Though the two schools are separated by only one state border, Oregon State and Gonzaga have rarely played in previous seasons. This is just the third game between the two schools, and second in postseason play.
The last time they played was the 2004 WNIT, where the Beavers won 69-64 in Corvallis. OSU is 2-0 against Gonzaga. Oregon State assistant coach Mandy Close played for the Beavers in that game.
''It's fun; it's regional. At the same time, it's not like I have seen a lot of Gonzaga games this year,'' Rueck said.
BEAVERS THRIVE IN CORVALLIS: During the past two seasons, Oregon State is 28-2 on its home floor, losing only to Stanford and Notre Dame. The Beavers are 14-1 in Corvallis this season.
''They are playing on their home floor, so they are going to be aggressive, hyped up and have a home crowd advantage. We have to match their intensity,'' Gonzaga forward Shaniqua Nilles said.
DEFENSE MATTERS: Oregon State is 21-0 this season when it holds the opponent to a field goal shooting percentage of under 40 percent.