Women's Basketball Game of the Week preview: No. 12 UCLA at No. 7 Oregon State
Who: No. 12 UCLA at No. 7 Oregon State
When: Sunday, Feb. 21 at 6 p.m. PT/7 p.m. MT, with Ann Schatz and Mary Murphy on the call.
You’re not going to want to miss this clash of Pac-12 behemoths, as Pac-12 regular season championship aspirations are on the line for Senior Day in Corvallis.
The Scoop: No. 7 Oregon State (23-3, 14-1 Pac-12)
The math is simple for Oregon State – defeat the Bruins, and the Pac-12 regular-season race is down to the Beavs and Sun Devils. This has become a possibility for the relatively-new bullies on the block because the Beavers are on an absolute tear right now, having won 13 straight games entering the Sunday night showdown. And while Oregon State has always been a good defensive team this year, the Beavers have especially locked teams down during their current winning streak – Oregon State has held opponents to 47.4 points per game and hasn’t allowed a team to score more than 53 during its 13-game win streak. Mix this in with the fact that it’s the last home game for seniors Jamie Weisner and Ruth Hamblin, players who have been so instrumental in the turnaround of the Oregon State women’s basketball program, and also add that it’s the last chance for the best fans in the Pac-12 (going by attendance figures) to see their team in person, the odds seem to be stacked in favor of the Orange and Black.
But the task of beating the 12th-ranked team in the country won’t be so simple – not just because UCLA is highly-ranked and in third place in the toughest conference in women’s hoops, but also because UCLA is the last team to defeat Oregon State. And the Bruins didn’t just beat the Beavs, either; they demolished them to the tune of a 71-51 whoopin’ in Los Angeles in a game Oregon State never led. In that contest, the Bruins held Oregon State to single-digit point totals in the second and fourth quarters in large thanks to keeping the normally-proficient deep-shooting Beavs (36 percent on the season) to just 4-for-18 from beyond the arc (22 percent for the game). So while Oregon State has been on an historic roll (more on that later), Senior Day doesn’t appear to be a walk in the park for the home team.
The Scoop: UCLA (20-6, 12-3 Pac-12)
The Bruins had put together a pretty nice season going into their home game against Stanford in a late-January Pac-12 Networks Game of the Week affair, entering that contest with a 5-2 Pac-12 record, but it turned into a we’re-for-real kind of season after holding the Cardinal below 40 in a 56-36 win at home over Stanford. The Bruins’ only loss since was a four-point defeat at the hands of tied-for-first Arizona State in Tempe as UCLA has kept itself mathematically alive for a regular-season banner.
The key word in that last sentence being “mathematically.” Even with a win in Corvallis Sunday, the Bruins could still be down two games with two remaining heading into the final weekend of the regular season depending on what Arizona State does against Washington. But they will still have a chance – Oregon State still has to play at Stanford (it took a big fourth-quarter comeback for the Beavs to win the first game at Gill), while the Bruins get another crack at Arizona State in their regular-season finale. UCLA would still need another loss from Arizona State to either Washington or USC, but if that does indeed happen, and UCLA wins out and Oregon State loses at least one game in the Bay Area, then UCLA would be the No. 1 seed for the Pac-12 Women’s Basketball Tournament (UCLA would be 3-1 vs. ASU/OSU, OSU would be 1-2 vs. ASU/UCLA and ASU would be 1-2 vs. OSU/UCLA). So I’m telling you there’s a chance.
Three Players to Watch: Oregon State
- #15 Jamie Weisner (5’10 Guard, Senior)- It’s all about the Big Three for the Beavs, so let’s start with the team’s leading scorer, who averages 17.4 points per game. The sweet-shootin’ Washingtonian leads all Pac-12 guards in field goal percentage (49.0 percent) and has scored at least 20 points in three of her last six games.
- #44 Ruth Hamblin (6’6 Center, Senior)- Nicknamed “The Canadian Hammer” by former Oregon State men’s hooper Joe Burton, Hamblin provides the rim protection for head coach Scott Rueck. Hamblin is the school’s all-time leading shot blocker and needs 23 swats to surpass the current Pac-12 record holder Stefanie Kasperski. Hamblin averages 3.3 blocks per game, so if the Beavers play seven more games, she can get to 23 with her current season average (the Beavs should get to seven more games by advancing in the Pac-12 and NCAA tournaments).
- #24 Sydney Wiese (6’0 Guard, Junior)- The third piece of the Big Three, “The Headband” hits more than two 3-pointers per game at a 39 percent clip. She’s more than just a shooter, however, as she also averages 6.4 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game and has been putting up 13.3 points, 6.0 boards and 6.7 assists per game since returning to the starting lineup at the end of January.
You've got to beware of those southpaws…
Three Players to Watch: UCLA
- #3 Jordin Canada (5’6 Guard, Sophomore)- To borrow a Jon Rothstein term, there's so much Isaiah Thomas in Jordin Canada; she's an undersized guard who can score in a bunch of different ways, can hit big shots and can change the complexity of the game. As a result, Canada was one of 20 players nationwide to be named to the John R. Wooden Award Late Season List earlier in the week.
- #21 Nirra Fields (5’9 Guard, Senior)- Fields is entrenched in a serious battle with Canada for being the team’s leading scorer. With both having played 25 games, Fields has scored 405 points, while Canada has scored 401. Like Canada, she scores in more than just one manner – she’s good off the catch, good off the dribble and can even finish with her back to the basket if you give her the space despite her size. Oh, and she's also 40 percent from downtown in conference contests.
- #25 Monique Billings (6’4 Forward, Sophomore)- No. 3 on the Bruins in the scoring department (12.7 per game), Billings is No. 1 on the Bruins in low-post game with a really nasty drop step. Billings also leads the Bruins in field goal percentage (49.4 percent), rebounds (8.1 per game) and blocks (36 total).
Three Notes to Know
- Oregon State is one win shy of matching the longest streak in program history- A win against the Bruins would give the Beavers their 14th straight victory, something that has been accomplished only one other time in OSU women’s hoops history back in 1982-83.
- UCLA is 16-0 when leading at the half- Conversely, the Bruins are 4-6 when trailing at the break, so the first 20 minutes of this contest could tell us a lot about how the final 20 will go.
- Oregon State moves the ball well as a team- The Beavers have assisted on 201 of its last 308 made baskets, which translates to a 65.2 assist percentage. That ratio would comfortably lead the Pac-12 if it were the Beavers’ overall assist percentage. As it is, Oregon State (61.0 percent for 2015-16) trails Arizona State (62.4 percent) and Cal (62.4 percent) in assist percentage for the whole season.
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