Scott Rueck doesn’t ever like, nor does he typically believe a team needs, to lose a game.
But Oregon State’s fifth-year women’s basketball coach was OK with his team’s loss to Colorado in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 tournament two weekends ago for one simple reason — it wasn’t the NCAA tournament.
In order to win a tournament, Rueck says, a team has to be hungry enough and know exactly what it is playing for because every other team will bring its best performance.
It’s about doing everything you do as well as you possibly can, he says.
“That’s why I don’t think it’s the worst thing for this group that we got beat by Colorado,” Rueck said Monday afternoon after the Beavers were awarded the No. 3 seed in the Spokane Regional and will host the first and second rounds of the NCAA tournament this Friday and Sunday.
OSU opens with 14th-seeded South Dakota State at 2 p.m. Friday. No. 6 George Washington and No. 11 Gonzaga play at 4:30 p.m. (both games will air on ESPN2). The winners play Sunday.
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“I thought it refocused us," Rueck said. "I didn’t want to lose but this team has responded well to that. It reminded them what it takes and how hard it is to get where we are. They’re focused on the little things and I think that’s what it takes at this time of the year.”
The biggest difference Rueck saw last week was that “hunger” the players displayed in practice, especially on the defensive end, which he said was the most disappointing part of the loss to Colorado.
“And to be honest, I mean they’ve been waiting for this,” Rueck said of the NCAA tournament. “I’m not saying that we disrespected the Pac-12 tournament or weren’t excited about it, we were. But they’ve been waiting for this and so it’s like we’re finally here, we’ve got two weeks to prepare and get ourselves on our A game. They’re preparing the right way and they’ll be ready to go.”
Senior Ali Gibson agreed there has been a renewed fire for the team and it started with the competitiveness in practice last week.
She said the hustle plays have been there and the players are executing offensively when they have open shots. She also said no one is taking any plays off expecting to be able to make up for them at the end when it counts.
“I feel like we lost our grit in the Pac-12 tournament so I think we got that back,” she said. “We’re pushing each other and we know exactly what it’s going to take to hopefully make a big run.”
Gibson agreed with Rueck that the team has made an effort to improve the defensive intensity.
“We have to be able to D up every possession,” she said. “That’s what we live on and has gotten us this far.”