Ninth-ranked Oregon State smothered No. 24 Washington early, then held off the Huskies’ late charge in a 61-53 victory to keep the Beavers in a tie atop the Pac-12 Conference standings.

Share story

The first matchup of top-25 women’s teams at Washington in 18 years brought the nation’s No. 1 defense and brought out a high-energy, season-high crowd at Alaska Airlines Arena, with eight WNBA scouts among the 3,813 in attendance Friday night.

It also brought out the worst in the Huskies’ offense in the first half.

Ninth-ranked Oregon State smothered No. 24 Washington early, then held off the Huskies’ late charge in a 61-53 victory to keep the Beavers in a tie atop the Pac-12 Conference standings.

UW junior guard Kelsey Plum scored 30 points on 10-of-22 shooting, but the Huskies’ supporting cast was just 6 of 31 from the field as UW shot 30.2 percent overall. Led by the conference’s most intimidating post presence — 6-foot-6 senior Ruth Hamblin — Oregon State (19-3, 10-1 Pac-12) entered the week leading the nation in field-goal percentage defense, allowing opponents to shoot 30.9 percent.

Unlimited Digital Access. $1 for 4 weeks.

The Huskies (16-6, 7-4) managed just 17 points in the first half, matching a season low for points in any half, a season low for points in a quarter (six) and then matching a season low for total points in game.

“I watch basketball all over the country, and they are one of the top-five teams in the country — no doubt about it,” UW coach Mike Neighbors said of the Beavers, who have won nine in a row.

A year ago, the Huskies upset then-No. 7 Oregon State here. Friday night, the energy and emotion were high, with both Neighbors and OSU coach Scott Rueck picking up technical fouls.

The Beavers’ defensive plan was to force the left-handed Plum to go right … or, better yet, funnel her right into Hamblin in the paint … or, best of all, force her to give the ball up to a teammate for a jump shot.

All three strategies were effective in the first half, when Plum was 3 for 11 from the field and had six turnovers.

“We didn’t handle it,” Plum said. “You can practice all you want against 6-6 (Hamlin), but then you get in (the paint) and there’s not a lot of places to go. … Credit them, man. They’re a great team.”

Hamblin was credited with three blocked shots but altered at least a half-dozen more when UW players tried to drive. Her nickname is “The Hammer” for a reason.

“That’s the Ruth factor,” Neighbors said. “You know when your kids know her nickname is ‘The Hammer,’ you know you’re probably in trouble.”

The Beavers hit three consecutive three-pointers to build a 43-23 lead midway through the third quarter. The Huskies were frustrated and flat and just about everything they tried on offense was futile. But they didn’t surrender.

Chantel Osahor, despite early foul trouble, gamely battled Hamblin inside, pulling down eight rebounds. And even with UW trailing by 14 in the final 90 seconds, Plum was diving for a loose ball late, refusing to let anything go.

Plum had 21 points in the second half and moved past Jamie Redd into second place on UW’s all-time scoring list.

“Our games with them are always physical, very emotional, and I think it’s great,” Neighbors said. “I think it’s great for our game, I think it’s great for our league when you get two teams that know each other like we do and have mutual respect for each other and (are) getting out there and battling.

“I thought the kids handled themselves great. We had a really great home crowd. I just wish we would’ve played a little better in the first half.”