Scott Rueck’s trips to the Los Angeles area with his Oregon State women’s basketball program have usually been met with a fair bit of frustration.
The Beavers, who take on UCLA at 7 p.m. Friday and USC at noon on Sunday in key early-season Pac-12 battles, have not fared well in the City of Angels over the past eight seasons.
Oregon State is just 5-9 on the road against UCLA (9-6, 2-1) and USC (10-4, 0-3) under Rueck, and just 1-6 against the Bruins in Pauley Pavilion. The lone victory came to open Pac-12 play in the 2014-15 season.
All told, the Beavers are 17-16 overall against those two schools, including the postseason.
The Pac-12 combo that has given the Beavers the most trouble since Rueck took over for the 2010-11 season is Stanford and California, which are 17-9 in the regular season and 18-10 overall, counting the Pac-12 tournament.
Most of that damage, however, was done in the early years as Rueck was building the program. Since the start of the 2015-16 season, the Beavers are 8-2 against those teams in the regular season and 9-3 overall.
In the last three seasons, the Los Angeles trip has been the most difficult as far as results go as the Beavers are 2-4; they are 3-1 against Cal and Stanford over that same period.
“Bottom line is they’re good, so you’ve got good team playing at home in their comfort zone, it’s hard to win,” Rueck said Tuesday afternoon. “So we’ll need a great effort this weekend and great preparation through the week to be ready.”
The last three meetings at UCLA have not been particularly kind, as the Bruins have outscored the Beavers 221-156 for an average margin of victory of 21.7 points.
“I feel like every year we’ve kind of come out slow, kind of scared and we’ve always been down at the beginning of the game and so it’s always hard to come back from that,” senior Katie McWilliams said of her thoughts on what has happened at UCLA in her three seasons.
“I don’t know what it is exactly. Obviously you don’t plan to be down at the beginning of a game but we just need to be able to come out firing offensively and just executing as well as possible. Then on defense they have a lot of threats, (so) just knowing their tendencies and getting stops.”
Last year may have been the most disappointing trip of them all for the Beavers, who head into this weekend 12-2 overall and 2-0 in the Pac-12 and a No. 10 national ranking.
Oregon State was swept by the Los Angeles schools on the road for the third time under Rueck. UCLA started the weekend with an emphatic 84-49 demolishing. Two days later, USC rallied from an 18-point deficit in the second half for a 65-61 win.
One reason for the Beavers not having much success at Pauley is because of the quality players the Bruins have had — Jordin Canada, Monique Billings, Kennedy Burke, Lajahna Drummer, and this season Michaela Onyenwere, just to name a few.
But the biggest factor in last year’s losses were turnovers: the Beavers committed 21 at UCLA and 27 against the Trojans.
In the Beavers’ home wins over UCLA (67-64 in overtime) and USC (69-63), the turnover numbers were 12 and 17, respectively.
“Ball security was the No. 1 issue down there and it always is, and so it will be again,” Rueck said. “Both teams are extremely athletic, physical, play fast and both teams have been shooting it very well. So we’ll have our hands full.”
The Bruins are forcing 15.9 per game and the Trojans 17.8 while the Beavers are turning it over 14.3 times per game.
“Their guard defense is very good,” McWilliams said. “They have a lot of quick, small guards and are able to get those little strips and steals.”
McWilliams remembers all too well her first game at UCLA when she started at point guard as a true freshman with Sydney Wiese on the shelf with a broken hand. The Beavers had 26 turnovers in that game with McWilliams committing seven.
A year later, Wiese, then a senior, had seven as well as the Bruins rallied in the fourth quarter for a 10-point win.
Last season, Mikayla Pivec, who was in her first season playing the point, had six in the blowout loss.
This time, the Beavers will turn to Destiny Slocum to hopefully end that trend.
“I think as a team overall we do a great job of taking care of the ball and just kind of getting into our flow a lot faster,” Slocum said. “ … We’re going to go down there and play Oregon State basketball, we’re playing really good basketball right now so go down there and hopefully catch a win.”