Oregon State’s players and coaches know full well what a victory over Arizona State on Sunday afternoon in Tempe would potentially mean.
Yes, the No. 3 Beavers could be voted the No. 1 team in the land in The Associated Press weekly top-25 poll on Monday.
No. 1 UConn lost to No. 6 Baylor on Thursday, then No. 2 Oregon dropped a 72-66 Pac-12 decision at the Sun Devils on Friday to open the door.
But that’s not what the Beavers (15-0, 3-0) are focused on.
“We think of it kind of as its great, it’s something always to work toward or kind of just have as a goal but it’s never our main focus,” senior Maddie Washington said Saturday night in a phone interview.
Instead, the focus is clearly on the Sun Devils (12-4, 2-2), who rallied in the fourth quarter on Friday to upend the Ducks. ASU also has close losses to No. 8 UCLA and No. 18 ASU.
“So we've got miles to go this year but every weekend is an opportunity,” coach Scott Rueck said in a radio interview after Friday 63-61 win at Arizona. “(Friday) was a big opportunity. I mean this was a resume game. This is a team that's going to win a lot of games. This is a team that is nationally ranked, everybody's expecting them to do big things and … we beat them on their home floor.
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“So they can't take that away from us but now it's what's next, and let's go find the next challenge and have fun with it and try to add more positives to our resume."
The Beavers have lost three in a row to the Sun Devils, falling in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 tournament in 2018 and then being swept in the season series last year.
“It's going to be tough Sunday in a place that wasn't a great place for us a year ago against the team that had our number last year," Rueck said. "So it's going to be another great battle.”
With the experience and leadership on this year’s team — four seniors and three juniors — you can bet it won’t be difficult for the Beavers to stay on target and not get ahead of themselves when it comes to the polls.
“I think there’s definitely leadership all around the team and everybody kind of has a different role,” Washington said.
And they know how not playing to their ability once could be costly. They nearly learned that the hard way on Friday as 19 turnovers led to 23 points for the Wildcats.
Washington said taking care of the ball, especially when dealing with pressure, and finding ways to be more efficient will be key on Sunday.
While it was the first time this season the Beavers have been in a battle to the end — they won the first 14 games by double figures — having to fight to the end should be good moving forward.
“This team loves to compete,” Rueck said. “In some ways we've been kind of waiting for this game for a long time. They love to have their backs to the wall to see what they can do and it brings out people's best. And to survive this one, first road game in a true environment like this, speaks great things about where we're headed this season.”