One could say the Oregon State Beavers women's basketball team is at a crossroads right now.
Six Pac-12 regular season games to go and Oregon State (19-5) finds itself in fifth place in the conference standings. The top-four get a first round bye in the Pac-12 tournament in Las Vegas March 5th-8th.
The Beavers five losses are all against top-25 teams. Three of their five losses came against teams that were No. 5 or better when the games occurred. So, the competition was brutal. OSU's offense has struggled in those five losses, which have come in their last nine games, averaging 56.8 points per game. In the four wins during that stretch, the Beavs averaged 75.3 points.
Oregon State's schedule is arguably the toughest in the Pac-12. They play USC (12-11) and No. 7 UCLA (21-2) exclusively on the road in the uneven scheduling of the Pac-12. They also play Washington (11-12) and Washington State (11-13) just once, two teams that have struggled this season.
Yes, the schedule has not been on the Beavers side. OSU plays Friday at USC and then have to wait until Monday night to face UCLA at Pauley Pavilion. Then, they charter back to Corvallis Monday night and are back on a plane Thursday for a game against No. 8 Stanford on Friday the 21st. Head coach Scott Rueck isn't thrilled with the set-up, but says you can't get overwraught....just focus!
"Just one game at a time," Rueck said. "The interesting part of it is the short week. We have the extra day between USC and UCLA but a short week before Stanford. It is definitely a challenge for sure. Everyday we are trying to manage the mental aspects and the physical aspects of not only our players but our staff to be at our best. It is tough to not only have four road games but also against such good competiton."
Adversity is part of every season for every team. The Beavers have had their fair share:
A one-two punch for the Beaver roster this season. Taya Corosdale, the talented junior power forward was lost early in the season to a serious hamstring injury and is out for the season.
Then, last Friday, in the dramatic 64-62 win over 19th-ranked Arizona State, freshman standout Kennedy Brown suffered a torn left ACL and is done for the season. Rueck says it's heartbreaking to lose Kennedy and to have her robbed of the remainder of the season. She is currenly second in blocked shots in the Pac-12.
Off court tragedies
In December, a huge Beaver supporter and friend to the program, Chad Finn, was on his way to the Maui Jim Maui Classic with his family. They stopped on Oahu on their way. Chad was killed in a swimming accident at the age of 58. This rocked the team.
Then in January, Ken Johnson, a longtime supporter of the Beavers and a legendary Corvallis dentist passed away. Another huge blow to the team. Ken was also a magician and the year prior while the team was in Hawaii, Johnson put on a magic show.
The Beavers are missing two of their inside standouts. What is next for Oregon State as their quest for a first-round bye in the Pac-12 tournament and hosting the first and second rounds of the NCAA tournament continues.
Coach Rueck says its time for everyone on the roster to step up and he says he loves "small ball", and you could see a lot of it moving forward.
"It is a dynamic team. To be able to put four guards on the floor, three of which have played the point guard position (Destiny Slocum, Aleah Goodman, Mikayla Pivec) in their career."
"That's a hard thing to defend since they all have also played off the bounce. All of them , they are attacking guards. This past weekend, I thought we really showed growth defensively with that group because they had to rise. I thought we rebounded better than we had previously with that lineup. We will continue to look for progress but I like that look at least in spurts."
USC Friday night at the Galen Center. The Beavers want that 20th win and then will have a huge game Monday night at Pauley Pavilion vs. UCLA on national TV. It's reasonable to believe that the Beavers will win five of their last six games to ensure a first-round bye in the conference tournament and host those first two games in the big dance.
They'll have a chance to get their 20th win of the season Friday night against the Trojans.
No. 11 Beavers look to right the ship amid tumultuous travel schedule originally appeared on NBC Sports Northwest