With the UConn women’s basketball team’s final step towards a fourth-straight national championship gets underway Sunday, it’s time to get to know their opponent in the Final Four, the No. 2 Oregon State Beavers.
The Beavers reached Indianapolis by taking down No. 1 seed Baylor 60-57 to win the Dallas regional and make their first-ever Final Four appearance, joining Washington and Syracuse as the other three teams making their inaugural Final Four appearance.
Dan Madigan: What is the buzz around campus regarding the program’s first-ever Final Four?
Brenden Slaughter: The buzz around campus has been absolutely electric. OSU had a welcome back party for the Beavers, and over 500 people showed up for the event. Every single student at OSU is eager for the game, and all faculty on staff has shown immense support as well, even applauding some players in their respective classes.
What is the Beavers’ biggest strength and weakness?
The Beavers have a big strength in their veteran leadership, and that is their x-factor. Behind Deven Hunter, Ruth Hamblin, and Jamie Weisner, OSU has leadership that is amongst the best in the country. If OSU is lacking in anything, it’s big situation experience. OSU had never been to an elite eight, and are now in their first Final Four. The stage hasn’t been too big for them yet, but maybe it will be?
What went right in the Elite 8 win against Baylor?
They played just as physical as Baylor. The Bears are one of the most physically imposing teams in the country, and OSU fought through the physicality and I believe that was the key factor in OSU’s win. In addition, OSU getting contributions from players not named Weisner was also key in spreading out Baylor’s defense.
Who is Oregon State’s most important player and why?
Jamie Weisner. Period. Weisner is the focal point of this team, and OSU usually lives and dies on their senior guard. She dropped 38 points in the sweet sixteen against DePaul and can light up the scoreboard any given night. She has been through it all, and is OSU’s go to player in clutch situations.
Many teams have tried and failed to guard Breanna Stewart. What can the Beavers do to try and stop her?
The Beavers have to utilize junior guard Gabby Hanson. Hanson is easily OSU’s best perimeter defender, and usually guards the opposing team's best player. Hanson has drawn tough matchups all season including Washington guard Kelsey Plum, and UCLA guard Jordin Canada, and effectively shut them down in those matchups. If Hanson can play her best defense, OSU has a very good chance of success.
What would need to go right for Oregon State to beat UConn?
UConn would have to make a lot of mistakes, including turning the ball over. OSU usually shuts down high scoring teams by playing in the half court and keeping the opposing team out of their game. If OSU can force UConn to play their game, the Beavers have a really good chance of keeping the game close.