Kevin McGuff is trying to rebuild the Washington women's basketball program. Saturday he'll face another rebuilding team, Oregon State.
Kevin McGuff hardly needs a blueprint.
So don’t think Oregon State’s apparent resurgence is a guide for Washington. McGuff can flip through his own Xavier files to reference how to get a program back on track.
The first-year Washington coach took over the Musketeers after a 12-19 season in 2002. McGuff had Xavier in the Elite Eight in 2010. His goal now is to accomplish the same turnaround at Washington, if not better.
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But Oregon State coach Scott Rueck does offer an example of how to do it in the Pac-12.
The Beavers suffered a player exodus after an 11-20 season in 2009-10. Now in their second season under Rueck, who led George Fox to the NCAA Division III championship in 2009, the Beavers are playing well. They’ve won five consecutive games for the first time since 2001, including Thursday’s gritty victory at Washington State. Oregon State held the Cougars scoreless for 12 minutes in the second half to win 51-39, snapping a three-game losing streak to WSU.
“He’s definitely done a nice job,” McGuff said of Rueck. “We’re going to have our hands full.”
Oregon State (16-7, 7-5 Pac-12) is tied with UCLA for third place in the conference heading into Saturday’s matchup with the Huskies (13-9, 5-7) at Edmundson Pavilion. The Beavers defeated the Huskies 60-55 in December in Corvallis.
Rueck’s team plays pressure defense and gets solid leadership from junior Sage Indendi. But it’s the recruits he has added that have really made the difference.
Freshman Ali Gibson shoots 46 percent from the field. And 6-foot-4 forward Patricia Bright and 6-7 reserve center Thais Pinto, both junior-college transfers, are among the few who can actually push around the Huskies’ 6-4 Regina Rogers.
“Oregon State is going to be a great team in the next few years,” Rogers said, noting Washington’s promise, too. “I wish I was a freshman. We know who’s going to be first (Stanford), but the rest will be wide open.”
The field is still open this season. Washington is tied for seventh, two games back of OSU. The top four teams receive a bye in the Pac-12 tournament in March.
Washington underclassmen Jazmine Davis, Kellie McCann-Smith and Mercedes Wetmore are settling into McGuff’s system and making key plays to win games.
But it was senior Mollie Williams’ defensive play that clinched a 72-69 win against Oregon on Thursday. Williams swiped and secured the ball from the Ducks in the closing seconds to prevent a possible tying bucket.
Another test awaits in Oregon State.
“One of our themes this year is, ‘I’ve got your back and you’ve got my back.’ We like to shout that before games,” Indendi told The Oregonian. “Early in the year we were trying to feel each other out, but at this point in the season, we’re trying to not buy into the cattiness and we’ve done a really good job of that so far. Our mind is focused on bigger things.”
Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @JaydaEvans