No. 7 Oregon State women clinch share of Pac-12 title
BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) Ruth Hamblin had quite the milestone weekend.
On Sunday, Oregon State's star senior center had a career-high 19 rebounds, 11 points and six blocked shots to help the seventh-ranked Beavers claim a share of the Pac-12 Conference regular-season crown with a 54-44 victory against California. Just a day earlier, her months-long rocket project launched back in Oregon without her - traveling 21,750 feet into the air and then getting fully recovered, and a large cutout of the engineering major's face was held by her project team so she could be there in spirit.
''Flawless,'' she said with a smile, a new orange Pac-12 champs hat in hand.
One significant victory down on the academic side to celebrate. Now, the 6-foot-6 Hamblin still has plenty of work to do with her basketball team before she's through with this remarkable career.
Marie Gulich scored six straight points bridging the third and fourth quarters as Oregon State won on Cal's home floor for the first time in 10 years. Jamie Weisner converted a key three-point play with 7:31 remaining and finished with 11 points and five assists as the Beavers snapped an eight-game losing streak in Berkeley.
Oregon State (25-4, 16-2 Pac-12) matched a program-record for conference wins also accomplished last season. The Beavers also earned a share of the Pac-12 crown and a No. 1 seed into the upcoming conference tournament after UCLA beat Arizona State 74-61 shortly after Oregon State's win at Cal was complete.
Oregon State ended the third quarter on a 7-0 spurt to take a 39-37 lead into the final 10 minutes and kept the pressure on Cal (13-16, 4-14) to salvage a Bay Area split. The Beavers had their 14-game winning streak snapped in a 76-54 loss at Stanford on Friday night.
''Today was a big gut check to this team. We came into this game knowing the circumstances, a lot of pressure,'' coach Scott Rueck said. ''Couldn't be more proud to say we're back-to-back conference champions. You dream of stuff like that in the No. 1 conference in the country.''
Cal freshman Kristine Anigwe scored 21 points and moved into eighth place on the program's single-season scoring list with 567 points and past Ashley Walker's 552 in 2006-07.
Oregon State hasn't lost back-to-back games all season. The Beavers reached 25 wins for the second time in school history and within two of the program's school record of 27 set last season.
''This team wanted it so bad. It's just the epitome of a team,'' said Rueck, coaching his alma mater. ''It's been a joy to coach them.''
Even he took a moment once Haas Pavilion was nearly empty to shoot a quick photo.
Neither team shot well in the first two quarters, when Oregon State missed 10 of 13 3-pointers and Cal was 0 for 4 from long range as the Beavers led 24-19 at the break.
Oregon State has won three straight against Cal for the first time since 2003.
DORM ROOM REFLECTIONS
Hamblin and Weisner recall their days as roommates four years ago and how they vowed to each other to turn around the Oregon State program.
''This is going to be an elite powerhouse by the time we're done,'' Hamblin said of the conversations.
Now, they have left their mark - with much more to do in March if they have their way.
''That's a legitimate top-10 team in the country,'' Cal coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. ''This team came in our gym three years ago and we were Pac-12 champs and a Final Four team and Jamie Weisner was a freshman and Ruth Hamblin was a freshman. They went there and it was kind of in shambles and they decided to turn something around.''
Oregon State: The Beavers finished 9-3 on the road. ... Oregon State has held 26 of its 29 opponents to below 40-percent shooting. ... The Beavers earn the top seed for the Pac-12 tournament based on head-to-head results, having beaten Arizona State 67-44 on Feb. 1.
California: The Bears shot just 31.7 percent after being limited to 33.9 percent in a 70-48 loss at Corvallis on Jan. 15. ... Fifth-year coach Gottlieb is 5-3 against Oregon State. Gottlieb thanked the fans after the final buzzer for never giving up on Cal during a tough season. She had no seniors on what would typically be senior day.
Both teams travel to the Pac-12 tournament in Seattle this coming week. Oregon State has a first-round bye and will play its opener Friday.