SEATTLE (AP) Two years ago, Oregon State was the upstart unexpectedly making the Pac-12 tournament title game. Last year, as a No. 1 seed, the Beavers were surprisingly bounded in the quarterfinals.
Experienced and determined after falling short last season, the top-seeded Beavers are back in the championship game.
Pac-12 player of the year Jamie Weisner scored 20 points, Sydney Wiese added 16 and No. 8 Oregon State survived a late rally to beat Washington 57-55 on Saturday night in the conference tournament semifinals.
The Beavers (27-4) will play No. 12 UCLA in the tournament title game on Sunday. It’s the second appearance in the tournament final for Oregon State after losing to USC in the 2014 championship game.
”We learned a lot from last year. Thankful we were able to repeat as conference champions but I think there was a different vibe to winning it,” Wiese said. ”I think we were a lot more focused going into practice this week and knew that we aren’t satisfied.”
But the final moments became uncomfortable for Oregon State after it went scoreless for the final 6 minutes and was left to watch Pac-12 leading scorer Kelsey Plum have the ball in her hands driving toward the basket with the final seconds ticking away.
But Plum’s runner at the buzzer bounced off the backboard and caromed off the rim, ending Washington’s bid to reach the title game for the first time.
Plum, the No. 3 scorer in the country, was held to a season-low 14 points, 12 below her season average. Oregon State put the responsibility of slowing down Plum on Gabriella Hanson with a lot of help from others.
Plum was strong early as the Huskies hit seven of their first eight 3-point attempts, but the No. 3 scorer in the country struggled in the second half. Plum finished 4-of-19 shooting and was 1 of 13 in the second half.
Chantel Osahor led Washington (22-10) with 18 points
”Gabby has done a phenomenal job on (Plum). And I think she is as underrated a defender as you’ll ever see,” Oregon State coach Scott Rueck said.
Hanson was also responsible for Oregon State’s final points with a key 3-pointer with 6:15 remaining after Washington had pulled within 54-50 on Plum’s only field goal of the second half. The Huskies pulled within 57-52 on Osahor’s driving layup with 1:51 remaining. Oregon State missed open 3s on consecutive possessions and Osahor hit her fourth 3-pointer – and first since the first quarter – with 36 seconds left to pull Washington within 57-55.
The Huskies chose to play defense rather than foul and forced a turnover when Wiese lost the ball and the shot clock expired with 5.5 seconds left. But Plum’s right-handed runner at the buzzer banked too hard off the backboard and caromed off the rim.
”I could not be more proud than I am of them tonight,” Washington coach Mike Neighbors said.
Ruth Hamblin added 10 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks for the Beavers. Talia Walton had 15 points for Washington.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Weisner was the only one that could hit shots in the second half after a dynamic first half for both teams. Weisner hit 4 of 6 shots in the second half and was 8 of 13 shooting for the game. Weisner and Wiese combined for eight of Oregon State’s 10 3-pointers, which matched a season high.
Washington: The Huskies led 37-35 at halftime. In the only regular season meeting with Oregon State, the Huskies trailed 31-17 at the break. … Washington was 6-of-32 shooting in the second half.
Oregon State: The Beavers trailed at halftime for the ninth time this season. They are now 5-4.
Washington: The Huskies will wait for their NCAA Tournament assignment to be announced March 14.
Oregon State: The Beavers face UCLA in Sunday’s title game.