Taylor Jones expected to have some first-game jitters Sunday afternoon, but they never materialized as much as she thought they might.
Having practiced inside Gill Coliseum the past couple days helped calm her down.
And once she got into a rhythm, there was little to slow the freshman down.
As far as first impressions go, Taylor made quite an impressive one as the 6-foot-3 freshman post scored 27 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and blocked five shots.
“I was not surprised by that at all,” coach Scott Rueck said. “That’s what she’s been doing every day is running the floor, playing big, impacting shots around the hoop defensively and then obviously finishing well when she got opportunities.”
With Taylor making an impact inside, Oregon State shook off the typical slow start that can often accompany a first game and cruised to a 95-41 exhibition victory over Union University, a Division II school from Tennessee, on Sunday afternoon.
Jones played just over 23 minutes, hit 11 of 20 shots from the floor and all five free-throw attempts.
“I wasn’t expecting that,” Jones said of her stat line. “But I’ll take it.”
Jones said she had a good amount of playing time during a four-game tour of Italy in August and was hoping for something similar of Sunday.
“It was a lot of fun,” she said. “I’m so excited for this season and to play with these girls.”
Her teammates feel the same way about her.
“We’re excited to have her on our team and seeing her this confident this early is awesome to see,” senior Mikayla Pivec said. “She’s a super hard worker, always willing to do extra reps, extra things to get better.”
Fellow freshman Kennedy Brown, a 6-6 McDonald’s All-American, added 12 points, seven rebounds, three assists and one block in 23 minutes.
Destiny Slocum contributed 16 points, hitting 4 of 10 3-pointers, while dishing out five assists and collecting two steals and Pivec chipped in 14 points, nine rebounds, four assists and three steals.
Aleah Goodman hit 3 of 5 3-pointers for nine points and also had seven assists and five rebounds.
The Beavers started slow, as might be expected in the first exhibition game. OSU missed all seven of its 3-point attempts and finished the first quarter 7 for 16 overall. Union was just 3 for 19 from the field in the period.
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Pivec, who had six points to help Oregon State to a 14-9 lead after one, said the Beavers had a tough time getting finding the outlet to get their transition going in the first quarter and that allowed Union to be effective with its pressure.
That changed in the second quarter as Oregon State started the second quarter on a 20-4 run thanks to getting out and finishing in transition. Slocum had a steal and coast-to-cast layup and Janessa Thropay had an old-fashioned three-point play to make it 26-13.
“We started slow but once we got into the swing of things in the second quarter we started seeing our posts more,” Pivec said. “Then our flow started getting better and better.”
Goodman and Slocum capped the run with back-to-back 3-pointers for a 34-13 edge.
The Beavers were 10 for 19 from the field in the second quarter and scored 28 points.
Jones finished the half with 10 points on 4-for-7 shooting and seven rebounds with three blocked shots to lead the way. Pivec and Slocum had eight each and the Beavers did not turn the ball over in the second quarter.
Union was just 6 for 35 from the floor for 17.1 percent from the field.
The beat continued in the second half as the Beavers were 22 for 40 from the floor and 4 for 9 from deep.
Jones continued where she left off in the first half with 17 points and five more rebounds.
When she arrived on campus back in late June, Jones knew she would have to elevate her play to be able to contribute at this level. She has been doing that on both ends of the court.
“Usually I just try to stand in the post and in high school it worked,” she said. “Now I’m competing against big girls, stronger girls and taller than me so I actually have to use my body and post up strong.”
Rueck said he has seen the growth.
I thought today we saw a nice progression of that to where she seemed very comfortable,” he said.
While there is still a steep learning curve, Jones showed Sunday the potential she has to be a key to the Beavers’ success.
So what’s she got planned for a follow up this Friday against Concordia in a second exhibition game?
“We’ll see,” she said with a smile.