Oregon State beats Middle Tennessee State, 55-36 | Women’s NCAA tournament
Seattle Times staff reporter
Perhaps Oregon State’s #SwishSisters hashtag isn’t trending on social media in Tennessee.
No. 8 seed Middle Tennessee State found out about it on Sunday in its NCAA tournament opener against ninth-seeded OSU. Given the moniker for the backcourt’s ability to hit three-pointers, OSU freshman Sydney Wiese hit five in the second half alone.
On the fifth, she stood at the tip of MTSU’s three-point line and belted “Let’s Go!” as she waited to play defense with 7:26 left and the Beavers up by 19. OSU went on to win 55-36 at Alaska Airlines Arena.
“We were having fun out there,” said Wiese, who finished with a career-high 26 points, including six made three-pointers.
MTSU (29-5) entered the matchup with all of the experience, playing in its sixth straight NCAA tournament. But the Blue Raiders hadn’t won a first-round game since 2007.
OSU made its first NCAA tournament appearance since 1996 with a roster that has one senior. That senior, forward Alyssa Martin, scored the team’s opening points on a three-pointer that helped build an 8-0 lead.
The Beavers never trailed in winning their first NCAA tournament game since 1995. A crowd of 2,214 mostly dressed in orange celebrated in the stands.
“I did feel nerves a little bit from this group; we didn’t shoot the ball well early in the game,” Oregon State coach Scott Rueck said. “But, to be honest, we’re getting used to it (sudden success). Nothing surprises me anymore. I felt if we played defense the way we could, we could be in a game somewhat like this.”
The Blue Raiders were one-dimensional in depending on senior Ebony Rowe to dig them out of offensive lulls. Rowe, the Conference USA player of the year, was 3 for 11 from the field in the opening half for six points. She finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds — the only player on the MTSU roster to score in double figures.
Middle Tennessee shot 23 percent from the field overall. Its 36 points were a season-low and all-time low for the Blue Raiders in NCAA tournament play.
“(Defense) is what we’ve been doing all year, it’s kind of our signature,” said OSU junior Ali Gibson, who had three steals. “We just had to take away their inside presence. We did a really good job of that.”
Wiese was the only Beaver to score in double digits. But she had help in other areas, with sophomore guard Deven Hunter grabbing 11 rebounds and sophomore center Ruth Hamblin blocking five shots despite being limited to 13 minutes due to foul trouble.
OSU (24-10) will play No. 1 seed South Carolina (28-4) in the second round on Tuesday at Alaska Airlines Arena. The winner advances to the Sweet 16.
“Sometimes you have a bad game,” Rowe said. “Nothing was falling our way…(but) I said no matter what happens, win or lose, we play through the horn and that’s what we did.”
Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or firstname.lastname@example.org.