Oregon State's seniors helped guide the program's rise

CORVALLIS, Ore. (AP) Sydney Wiese joked that when she was first recruited by Oregon State, she didn't even know where Corvallis was.

Four years later, Wiese and her fellow seniors are wrapping up a historic run that has seen the Beavers' status rise not only in the Pac-12 but also in the nation.

''I think we just saw a vision, bottom line. We saw what this place could be,'' Gabby Hanson said.

On Saturday, No. 2 Oregon State (31-4) returns to the Sweet 16 for the second straight season to face third-seeded Florida State in the Stockton Regional. Last year, the Beavers advanced to the Final Four but fell to eventual champion UConn.

Top seed South Carolina plays No. 12 seed Quinnipiac in the other regional game Saturday at Stockton Arena.

The Seminoles (27-6) defeated sixth-seeded Missouri 77-55 on Sunday in Tallahassee, Florida, for their third straight trip to the Sweet 16. The Beavers moved on with a 64-52 victory over No. 7 seed Creighton at Gill Coliseum.

It was the last game at home for Wiese, Hanson and Kolbie Orum. Redshirt junior Breanna Brown has eligibility left but will graduate this spring and is undecided about her future.

The Beavers have been to the NCAA Tournament in each of the last four seasons. The streak comes after an 18-year tournament drought.

Wiese and Hanson credit coach Scott Rueck with lifting the program. When he took over in 2010, he inherited a team in so much disarray that he had to hold open tryouts to fill his first roster.

It was his vision, along with the lure of a college town eager to embrace the sport, that struck both Wiese and Hanson.

''Whether its women's basketball games or any sporting event, there's always great support from the community,'' Wiese said. ''That was definitely appealing coming on a visit. There were people who reached out and said: `This is an amazing place. It's a diamond in the rough.'''

That was back when Wiese was a wide-eyed recruit from Arizona. Since then she's written her way into Oregon State's record book.

She broke the Pac-12 career record for 3-pointers this season, surpassing Stanford's Candice Wiggins, and currently has 373. She has hit a 3 in 30 straight games.

She also set Oregon State's career assist record this season and now has 624. She has 1,815 points, ranking fifth on the Beavers' career list and 31st in the Pac-12.

Hanson has been Oregon State's defensive specialist, but she matched Wiese with 13 points against Creighton, including 11 in a first-half outburst.

''They did everything right for four years and they earned everything they got out there,'' he said. ''All I can say is well done and I'm so proud of them,'' Rueck said. ''They've created a legacy that will live on forever in this program and they will remain. This team will carry them on in the way they conduct themselves in the future.''

With the victory over Creighton, the Beavers' seniors finished 60-6 at Gill. Attendance was announced at 5,660, and all were on their feet at the end when Wiese blew kisses from center court.

''What a great finish to their home career. To be 60-6 is astounding,'' Rueck said. ''It's simply incredible. A place that had never won a Pac-12 title, before their arrival, and now they've won three straight. Now they're going to be able to participate in their second straight Sweet 16 with a chance to move on.''

The Beavers lost two key players from last season's Final Four team, Ruth Hamblin and Jamie Weisner, and expectations weren't as high for this season. But Oregon State has proved any doubters wrong - again.

''We saw what this place could be,'' Hanson said. ''I think we both can attest to when we came on our visits and everyone was so kind and so nice and they wanted this program to do well. They just didn't really have the `right stuff' yet.''

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Follow Anne M. Peterson on Twitter: www.twitter.com/AnnieMPeterson

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