Gulich vs. Oregon preview

Oregon State center Marie Gulich (21) grabs a pass in front of Oregon's Jacinta Vandenberg last season. Gulich leads the Beavers with 16.5 points per game heading into Friday's Civil War game.

Anibal Ortiz, Mid-Valley Media

What Oregon and Oregon State have done this women’s basketball season offensively has been impressive.

The No. 7 Ducks average a conference-best 84.9 points per game, while the No. 18 Beavers are second at 76.8 per contest.

Oregon State (13-4, 4-2 Pac-12) leads in field goal percentage (50.7) with the Ducks (15-2, 6-0) just half a percentage point behind (50.2).

The Beavers are the conference’s top 3-point shooting team at 42.5 percent with the Ducks second at 39.3.

Oregon State is the top assist team in the conference at 20.9 per game, just ahead of Oregon's 20.1.

Oregon has five players averaging in double figures, led by sophomore point-guard sensation Sabrina Ionescu’s 19.2 per game.

“They present a lot of challenges,” Oregon State coach Scott Rueck said of the Ducks, who his Beavers host at 8 p.m. Friday in the first of two Civil War games this weekend.

“They have so many weapons and Sabrina’s one. But find one that’s not. Every single person on that team can hurt you in one way or another. They’re playing extremely well, and they’ve played the best basketball in the conference.”

Ruthy Hebard (16.8), Satou Sabally (11.1), Lexi Bando (10.5) and Maite Cazorla (10.5) join Ionescu in double figures.

“They’re very talented offensively, they’ve shown that this year,” Oregon State sophomore point guard Mikayla Pivec said. “They’re a young team but they are savvy in how they play and they execute their offense really well.”

The Beavers may not have as many players in double figures — Marie Gulich leads the way at 16.5 followed by Pivec (12.2) and Kat Tudor (12.1) — but they present issues with their ability to make the extra pass.

“They get you scrambling around and spread the floor,” said Oregon coach Kelly Graves, who is 0-6 against the Beavers since taking over the Ducks program.

“If we let them play horse where they can just catch and shoot, then we’re in trouble because they’re going to make them.”

With how good each team is offensively, whoever gains the upper hand defensively might just have an edge.

“You know each other so well that you have to be ready to defend and that’s probably the No. 1 thing that we’ve done consistently in these games,” Rueck said. “… We’ve defended extremely well in this series and that’s going to have to be the case again. We’re going to have to grow. Our defense is going to have to hit another level than it’s been to this point.”

That’s saying something as Oregon State leads the conference in field goal defense (33.0) and is allowing a conference-low 55.8 points per game.

The Ducks surrender 61.4 per contest.

Rueck was impressed with the way the Ducks played on the defensive end last season, despite not having great numbers entering the series.

“They played defense at a level that, to be honest, I didn’t think they were capable of at that time,” he said. “But they elevated that weekend and that really impressed me.”

The Ducks may be young, but they enter Friday’s game with more on-court experience.

Of the 110 points the Beavers scored in last year’s two games, only 24 of those came from players who are on this year’s roster.

Conversely, of the 100 points the Ducks scored, all but four of those came from players on this year’s roster.

“For three years we’ve been the same group pretty much,” Rueck said. “When your guards are the same, you’re pretty much the same. We’ve had so much consistency and we’ve been the team with that experience, and now we’re experiencing things for the first time.”

Could that be an advantage for the Beavers with so many new players in new roles?

“I hope it gives us an edge,” Pivec said. “I think that our offense runs a little differently. Marie has established herself as a threat inside and so they’re going to have to do what they can to take that away. But if they take that away we have shooters on the outside. It will definitely be a different offensive look. They’ve been watching film so they will be aware of what we want to do.”

The team that is able to impose its will the best may just come away with the victory and have bragging rights for about 47 hours — the teams meet again at 5 p.m. Sunday in Eugene.

“I think it will be who executes better and plays harder,” Graves said. “I think ultimately the toughest team will win.”

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

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