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Aleah Goodman

Oregon State guard Aleah Goodman, center, moves the ball around the Arkansas Pine-Bluff defense earlier this season. Goodman is averaging 6.9 points per game as the Beavers have started 7-1.

Oregon State’s women’s basketball team has been enjoying the beauty of Maui this week as the Beavers get ready to take on the next two opponents on their schedule.

The No. 8 Beavers (7-1) will meet Eastern Washington on Friday in the Maui Jim Maui Classic before wrapping up the two-day event with a showdown against Texas A&M on Saturday.

Both games are set to tip off around 9:30 p.m. Pacific time.

The Beavers had a chance to enjoy a few days relaxing on the beach as well as doing some outreach in the local community. Is coach Scott Rueck concerned the team won’t be ready to hit the hardwood on Friday?

Nope.

“What I do know is that being in a beautiful place with loads of distraction will not distract this team,” he said following Sunday’s 82-31 thrashing of a Santa Clara team that was 5-2. “That’s what I’ve learned. If you can come out with focus like (Sunday) after finals week, if you can go up to Vancouver and play with the level of focus we did three days in a row and prep like they have, they’re operating with a high level of maturity.

“So I’m excited to go over and enjoy the beauty of that place, get into the schools, do our community service activities and give to the community, which certainly will get rewarded because people are going to come to our games. But I know they will be focused and we’ll get better through those 80 minutes.”

The Beavers are no stranger to Hawaii, having played there the last three seasons. Last year, the players not only had to focus on their outreach and basketball, but also studying for finals.

Not having school to concentrate on this year should make the experience a little more relaxing and rewarding.

“Basketball is really important to us, but also being able to do what is the most important part of our culture, reaching out and affecting people in the way that we can,” point guard Destiny Slocum said. “Now we can put our all into the kids and basketball. How much better can it get?”

Oregon State opens against an Eastern Washington team that has struggled out of the gates with a 1-6 record. That doesn’t bode well against a Beavers team that was dominated their last two opponents 182-77.

Even in those games, Rueck said he has found plenty of room for growth.

“My halftime talk (Sunday) wasn’t all rosy,” he said. “I thought we hit a wall down the last four minutes, they switched to a different zone, I didn’t think we executed that very well. We traveled I guess three times in a row, which I’m anxious to look at. It wasn’t pretty down the stretch even though we were up 30.”

It’s the same approach he takes each game.

“I always tell them I don’t care what the scoreboard says,” Rueck said. “I’m not here to coach to a scoreboard, I’m here to coach them and help them to become great. Well we’re far from that. We have so much room to grow still.

“We’re playing well, we have a lot of talent on this team and we’ve shot the ball extremely well, which we will. But that’s due to unselfishness. But the fine-tuning and all the little details that will help us when it comes to our run at the Pac-12 title and so forth, there’s a long way to go.”

Texas A&M will likely present a much stronger challenge. The Aggies are off to a 6-2 start with losses to then-No. 15 Syracuse (75-65) and Lamar (74-68) at home.

The Aggies, who have been in The Associated Press top 25 this season, are currently No. 27. They are led by sophomore Chennedy Carter, who is averaging 19.1 points per game. She is one of four players scoring in double figures.

After the tournament, the Beavers return home and will take on Duke on Dec. 20 before wrapping up the nonconference season at home against Cal State Bakersfield on Dec. 29.

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Sports Editor

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