No. 19 Oregon State got its first test of the women’s basketball season in Friday’s season opener against North Dakota.

And the Beavers passed with a good enough grade to pick up the win.

Thanks to an efficient offense and a stifling defense over the final 10 minutes, the Beavers fended off the Hawks for a 65-55 victory before a Gill Coliseum crowd of 3,737.

It’s the 20th straight season-opening victory for the Beavers, who host Utah Valley at 6 p.m. Wednesday. Then it’s a showdown with No. 6 Notre Dame at 11 a.m. on Nov. 19.

“We got a great effort from them today and it demanded a great effort from us to win this game,” coach Scott Rueck said of the Fighting Hawks, who won 20 games last season.

“I really liked the way we finished. I thought our defense really set the tone down the stretch. We adapted to what they were doing and we got better and better as the game went, and then we made the plays offensively to win.”

Marie Gulich led a balanced offensive attack with 16 points, while Mikayla Pivec (15), Katie McWilliams (13) and Taylor Kalmer (10) all finished in double figures.

It was a back-and-forth game throughout most of the first three quarters before the Beavers (1-0) were finally able to get some separation and keep it.

After Melissa Dailey’s free-throw line jumper got North Dakota (0-1) within 48-47 at the start of the fourth, the Beavers clamped down defensively and went on an 8-2 run to seize control.

The biggest shot of the quarter may have come from freshman Taya Corosdale, who canned a 3 with 3 minutes, 5 seconds left to give the Beavers their largest lead at 63-53.

Oregon State finished the quarter 8 for 15 from the floor while forcing North Dakota into 3-for-13 shooting to pull away.

It all began with a change in intensity.

“I know, myself included, the intensity wasn’t there at times on the defensive end and getting those stops in the fourth quarter gave us confidence on the offensive side,” Pivec said.

Kalmer gave the Beavers a much-needed spark in the first quarter. Down 9-6, Kalmer ignited a 12-0 burst by bookending the run with 3s for an 18-9 lead.

The Beavers scored those 12 points in just 1:48. They scored just 17 points over the other 18:12 of the half.

Down 18-9, the Hawks put together a 16-3 run to go up 25-21. The lead reached 29-24 before the Beavers closed the final 3:21 on a 5-0 run to get even at the half.

The Beavers were outrebounded 26-19 in the first half and were just 12 for 31 from the floor.

“I wish we would have shot the ball better the first half but I thought there were some nerves at play,” Rueck said.

Oregon State went inside to Gulich to start the third. After she scored the first seven of the period for the Beavers, Kat Tudor’s 3 put OSU up 39-31.

The lead reached 43-34 on a rebound basket by Pivec before the Hawks closed on an 11-5 run to get within 48-45 going to the fourth.

Gulich had 13 of her 16 in the second half.

“First half I definitely rushed everything I did and I just had to change my mentality," Gulich said. "Down in the locker room I was just focusing back. It was a new start … so that was my opportunity to show what I’ve got.”

Gulich had a double-double, adding 12 rebounds to go with her 16 points. She missed a triple-double by three blocks, finishing with seven.

Pivec added a game-high 15 rebounds and was just three assists away from a triple-double. She added three steals and a block while committing just three turnovers after getting in early foul trouble.

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Sports editor of the Albany Democrat-Herald and Corvallis Gazette-Times

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