An elite performance by Jamie Weisner and a first-ever regional final for Oregon State in the women’s NCAA Tournament.
“What I’m seeing is amazing,” coach Scott Rueck said.
Weisner had career highs with 38 points and seven 3-pointers, along with 10 rebounds, as the Pac-12 champion Beavers beat DePaul 83-71 on Saturday night to win in the Sweet 16 less than six years after Rueck took over a program in shambles.
“Just enjoying every moment of it,” said Weisner, the senior guard who was the Pac-12 Player of the Year and conference tournament MVP.
After Weisner missed her first three shots, she scored Oregon State’s last 11 points of the first quarter — right after the Beavers (31-4) had gone ahead for the first time, and to stay. She made 14 of her last 17 shots, including 7 of 9 3s.
“That was contagious for the rest of the team,” guard Sydney Wiese said.
“She willed us to win tonight,” said center Ruth Hamblin, another Beavers senior. “To have a competitor and a teammate like that, it makes you want to work harder and to do more for her and for the team.”
The Beavers (31-4), the No. 2 seed in the Dallas Regional, play top seed Baylor (36-1) on Monday night with a Final Four berth on the line.
Wiese and Hamblin both scored 13 points. Wiese had consecutive early 3-pointers right before the Beavers went ahead to stay.
DePaul (27-9) was in its fourth Sweet 16 under 30-year coach Doug Bruno, but has never gotten farther in the tournament.
Jessica January had 20 points for sixth-seeded DePaul, while Jacqui Grant had 15 and Mart’e Grays 14.
Grant scored her team’s first seven points as the Blue Demons jumped out to a quick 9-2 lead before Wiese hit consecutive 3s in 32 seconds and Deven Hunter — who finished with nine points and 12 rebounds — made a go-ahead layup.
“They’re obviously a lot bigger than us and it made it difficult to get to the rim as we have in other games,” January said. “Just a good team all around, they own their match-ups and they’re just really aggressive.”
Weisner then had her 11 straight points, including three 3s for a 21-14 lead. Her previous career highs had been 27 points and six 3s.
“She is the ultimate competitor. She gives everybody in the room confidence. Her confidence is earned,” Rueck said. “She just brings this infectious energy to every situation. … You just want to be around it, so you would be crazy not to just smile and enjoy it.”
With a roster filled with seniors and juniors recruited by Rueck, the Beavers are in a regional final nearly six years after he had to conduct open tryouts to fill his first roster.
Oregon State has won 21 of its last 22 games and has already set a school record for victories this season. They won the Pac-12 Tournament and shared the regular-season title, after last season winning the crown outright to end Stanford’s run of 14 championships in a row.
“There are four No. 1s in this tournament, and the fifth team is Oregon State,” Bruno said. “It should be a really good game on Monday night.”
Baylor has a 23-game winning streak after a 78-58 win over Florida State earlier Saturday in the NBA Dallas Mavericks’ arena that is only about 100 miles from the Lady Bears’ campus in Waco.
The Lady Bears are trying to get to its fourth Final Four in coach Kim Mulkey’s 16 seasons after losing in regional finals to Notre Dame each of the past two seasons.
DePaul: The Blue Demons also lost Sweet 16 games in 2006, 2011 and 2014. … Chanise Jenkins has 10 points on 3-of-12 shooting. … DePaul had 18 assists on 27 field goals, matching their season average of assists on two-thirds of their field goals. …
Oregon State: This is the first win for Oregon State for the season while allowing its opponent to score 70 points. … The Beavers are 2-0 against Baylor, but those games were in 1983 and 1995. … Oregon State is 26-0 this season when leading at halftime. … Hunter had six offensive and six defensive rebounds. … The Beavers had a 42-31 rebounding advantage.
Oregon State plays Baylor in the Dallas Regional final Monday night.