The first time Taylor Jones played a game inside Gill Coliseum, she finished with 27 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in an exhibition win over Union University, a Division II school.

It was an impressive first performance for sure, but the game didn’t count, nor did her stats.

Not to worry. Jones made sure her first counting game inside Gill was a memorable one as well as she scored all 20 of her points in the first half.

That performance helped No. 7 Oregon State open the season with an 86-57 victory over UC Irvine in the first round of the Preseason WNIT.

The Beavers (1-0) will next face University of the Pacific in the quarterfinals, set for 7 p.m. Monday and also in Gill.

Jones, a 6-foot-3 center, hit 8 of her 9 shots in the first half and grabbed seven rebounds in almost 15 minutes.

“I knew that I needed to just leave it all out in the court and play the hardest I could for my team and that’s what I tried to do,” Jones said. “It was just so much fun and I love playing with this team and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”

Jones admits she was a little nervous when they were announcing the starters but playing against the USA Women’s National Team on Monday night helped take most of the jitters away.

Senior Mikayla Pivec said it’s nice to have such a presence in the post this season.

“It gives us a new dimension offensively and defensively so we’re excited about her continued growth and potential,” she said.

By not scoring in the second half — she played eight minutes and sat out the entire fourth quarter — Jones fell four points short of tying Alyssa Martin’s school record for points by a freshman in her debut.

While Jones was the star of the first half, Pivec stole the show for the game as she finished with a game-high 25 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and just missed a triple-double with eight assists as she exited with 1:57 to play.

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“I hadn’t thought about it but it makes sense after I looked at it,” coach Scott Rueck said. “She kept coming up with rebounds, coming up with rebounds and the way she plays the ball moves out of her hands because she’s able to get so many places off the dribble. Nothing Mik ever does ever surprises.”

Aleah Goodman added 12 points, hitting 4 of 8 3-pointers, and 10 assists for her first double-double of her career, while Destiny Slocum chipped in 11 points and six assists as the Beavers had four scores in double figures.

Jordan Sanders led the Anteaters (1-1) with 23 points and Lauren Saika added 14 points in the loss.

Oregon State shot 34 for 57 for the game and went 12 for 24 from beyond the 3-point line. UC Irvine was just 23 for 69 from the field and 7 for 18 from 3.

The Beavers used fantastic ball movement and nearly perfect passes during a third quarter run that put the game out of reach. The best may have been Slocum’s cross-court pass to Goodman, who drained a 3 for a 59-38 lead at the midway point.

The lead was as much as 25 before OSU took a 67-44 edge into the final period.

The lead eventually reached 35 in the fourth quarter.

The Beavers went through a bit of a tough stretch, albeit a short one, in the second quarter where the Anteaters decided to press and forced them into a couple turnovers to get within 31-27 with just over five minutes left in the half.

But Goodman canned a 3 to start a 14-4 closing run that put the Beavers up 45-31.

Oregon State had 13 first-half turnovers that led to 11 points.

They did a good job with their press and got us on our heels a little but in that second quarter especially, way too many turnovers,” Pivec said. “At halftime we came in and adjusted our press break offensively in terms of our spacing and where we needed to get the ball to and that helped get our flow better offensively.”

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Sports Editor

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