Oregon State and UConn take different paths to Final Four
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Ruth Hamblin and Jamie Weisner had a goal when they came to Oregon State four years ago: get the team to the Final Four.
''We're small-town kids, we're dreamers, and we worked hard, and it's cool to see how far that's come,'' Hamblin said. ''But we definitely had the vision.''
Now that the pair has helped the Beavers to the school's first national semifinals, they'll try to keep it going. That might be a tall task. The Beavers will face top-seeded UConn on Sunday night in the first semifinal game. The Huskies have won three straight national championships, 73 consecutive games, and have looked nearly unbeatable. Oregon State has noticed from across the country.
''It's hard to miss them. They're on ESPN all the time,'' Weisner said. ''It's legendary. I would say it's even an honor to play against them. In 20 years I can tell my kids that I played against that UConn team.''
Despite the praise, the Beavers aren't intimidated by UConn.
''I think it's a mental thing, just like you can't lose the game before you step foot on the court,'' Hamblin said. ''You just got to know that they're humans and they're going to make mistakes. And every team is beatable if you play the right way. You know they're not invincible.''
UConn has looked close to perfect over the past two seasons. Every victory has been by double digits and most of the time the starters are sitting for the fourth quarter. The Huskies are on record pace, having won by an average of 40 points.
They stand two victories away from completing an unprecedented feat with four consecutive titles. While the Beavers seniors wanted to just make a Final Four, Breanna Stewart had loftier goals. She said she wanted to win four championships.
''I want to go out and finish this thing off,'' Stewart said. ''I want to finish my career off on the greatest note, and the same thing with the other seniors.''
SICK SAMUELSON: UConn freshman Katie Lou Samuelson didn't practice Saturday. Team officials said she wasn't feeling well.
The 6-foot-3 Samuelson averaged 11 points for the Huskies, but has increased that to 14.4 points during the postseason. She led the team during two of the first three rounds of the tournament, scoring 22 points in a 101-49 win over Robert Morris, then scoring another 22 and grabbing 14 rebounds in UConn's 98-38 regional semifinal rout of Mississippi State.
A team spokesman says it's likely she'll play in Sunday's semifinal against Oregon State.
UCONN'S DOMINANCE: Even Stewart has been impressed by UConn's NCAA run. The Huskies have already set the record for most consecutive victories in the NCAA Tournament with 22 straight wins. The senior group of Stewart, Morgan Tuck and Moriah Jefferson have never lost an NCAA game.
''It is really ridiculous actually,'' she said. ''When people say that my class is undefeated in postseason play in the NCAA Tournament, that's crazy to think about.''
ENJOYING THE MOMENT: Oregon State coach Scott Rueck has been to the Final Four before, leading George Fox to the Division III championship in 2009. He is so happy to see the NCAA put all three championships in the same place at the same time.
''I was so excited,'' he said. ''I was killing ourselves to get here to be a part of that, and I was really secretly hoping George Fox would be here as well. And they had another phenomenal season and had a shot at that. And so I thought how perfect would that be if we could find a way to be here with them. And so I think that's really special, first off. Every level should be celebrated, because it's all relative. I don't care more now that I'm here than I was in Division III at the Final Four, it's all the same.''
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