The past three seasons, the Oregon State women’s basketball team has lost just 15 games — five times in each season.
Five games into this season, the Beavers have already dropped two games, albeit against two ranked teams.
But those two losses — to now No. 3 Notre Dame (72-67 at home) and No. 14 Duke (72-65 at Duke) — have provided teaching moments that should help the Beavers as they head into what appears to be another competitive Pac-12 season at the end of the year.
“I think we’re improving pretty well, honestly,” senior Marie Gulich said on Tuesday. “Losing sucks, like I hate losing. The last three years we didn’t lose much so I’m not really used to it so I just have to be patient because we are a young team.
“I don’t want to use that as an excuse because we’re still really good and we should win those games because they were really close.”
Even in the loss to Duke last Saturday, the No. 21 Beavers improved in an area that cost them in the loss to Notre Dame six days prior.
Against the Irish, the Beavers were outrebounded by 11 in the second half. But against Duke, the Beavers won the boards by six.
The problem against the Blue Devils, though, was turnovers — and at the worst times. The Beavers had 18 and those led to 24 points for Duke.
“Now we just have to learn how to pay attention to all those things that are important to win: don’t turn it over, win the boards and if we get those two things together I think we’ll be really good and hard to play against,” Gulich said.
Sophomore Mikayla Pivec and coach Scott Rueck also mentioned the Blue Devils played a zone the Beavers are not accustomed to seeing.
“So seeing that pressure and seeing that kind of defense is what UCLA and USC will play down the road so it’s good to have some exposure to that,” Pivec said.
The Beavers also faced adversity for the first time this season against Duke, falling behind by double figures and having to battle back. Against Notre Dame, it was the Beavers who led by double figures in the second half before losing.
“We’ve been up in past games so to have that first punch hit by Duke in the first half where they got up … to be able to fight back like that showed that we can battle back from any deficit,” Pivec said.
Added Rueck after Saturday’s game: “We’re getting experience on the road against a really good team for the first time. Some in some really different roles. This team and this program doesn’t give up. And this team did not give up today. They fought like crazy and made a game of it until the end.”
The Beavers hit the road again this weekend to take part in the Maui Jim Maui Classic in Hawaii. Oregon State takes on Nevada at 9 p.m. Friday and Utah State at 9 p.m. Saturday. Nevada lost 88-57 at home to No. 1 Connecticut on Tuesday.
Then it’s back home where the Beavers wrap up the nonconference schedule with four games (three at home and one in Portland).
While the Beavers are still young and inexperienced compared to the past few seasons, Gulich believes they can learn the lessons faster.
“I look at those things and I know it all takes time and process, but I think we’ve already established a culture and we already are a good team, (so) we can be better and we can reach this faster,” she said. “We don’t need to lose more than those games, I think, personally.”