Pac-12 WBB roundup: Oregon State’s sweep, Brink’s return highlight weekend action

Turns out, returning to the Associated Press Top 25 for the first time in three years was only the start for Oregon State.

The Beavers made their No. 25 ranking seem low by sweeping No. 3 Colorado and No. 16 Utah and doing their part in one of the greatest weekends in OSU basketball history. (In case you hadn’t heard, the men’s team swept No. 9 Arizona and Arizona State.)

The Beavers are now 14-0 at home this season and 6-3 in conference play, in sole possession of third place Stanford and Colorado. They undoubtedly will make another leap in the national polls, particularly given their 91-66 domination of Utah.

“The grit is growing and the belief is growing,” Oregon State coach Scott Rueck said after a 68-62 win Friday over Colorado. “You saw us make the plays we needed to get the win.”

Freshman guard Donovyn Hunter was instrumental in both games with a combined 33 points and 14 assists. That could be enough to pry the Pac-12 Freshman of the Week away from USC star JuJu Watkins, who has won that award every week the Trojans have played.

Not that Watkins’ production dipped: She scored a combined 48 points. But the 11th-ranked Trojans lost Sunday to Washington during a weekend in which only Oregon State and Stanford went unblemished.

The Pac-12’s other four ranked teams were a combined 4-4 and hard pressed just to break even.

Washington State held off UCLA by three points for the Cougars’ fourth win in their past five games — even though star guard Charlisse Leger-Walker was helped off the court in the third quarter with a right leg injury. (The Cougars lost Friday to USC.)

Brink returns, Stanford rolls

Stanford (19-2/8-1) remained above the fray in its first games after Tara VanDerveer became the winningest coach in college basketball history.

The Cardinal was more than convincing on the road with 30- and 32-point wins at ASU and Arizona, respectively. Cameron Brink returned from a knee injury to produce a combined 45 points and 35 rebounds, reinforcing her WNBA draft value if she opts to turn pro after this season.

Phoenix Mercury general manager Nick U’ren and coach Nate Tibbetts were on hand in Tempe to watch the Cardinal. The Mercury pick third in the WNBA draft in April, but the 6-foot-4 Brink might not make it past the Los Angeles Sparks who have the No. 2 selection.

“I love Phoenix,” Brink said. “My grandma lives nearby. I like the weather. To play with Diana Taurasi and Brittney Griner would be amazing. Amazing opportunity whatever (happens).”

Stanford junior forward Kiki Iriafen, despite a slow first half at Arizona, combined for 48 points and 23 rebounds and is part of arguably the best low-post tandem in the country. Brink is among the 10 finalists for the Lisa Leslie Award, which is given to the nation’s best center, and Iriafen is a finalist for the Katrina McClain Award for the top power forward.

“There was no answer for Kiki or Cam,” VanDerveer said after the ASU game. “The two of them together are really hard. Who do you guard? You put your best defender on Cam, then you’ve got a bad defender on Kiki or either way.”

Added Brink: “We’re going to keep going to our high-low until it doesn’t work anymore. She (Iriafen) has great hands, she can catch whatever pass and she’s a great sealer, so I’m going to keep passing it over to her until they give us something else.”

Beers, Rees star vs. Utah

Oregon State defeated Colorado even with leading scorer Raegan Beers limited to six points.

But the 6-4 Beers was back in the scorebook in a big way against Utah with 20 points, while Kelsey Rees, who played for the Utes before transferring, added 15 points and six rebounds.

“This team competed like crazy this weekend for 80 minutes against two excellent teams,” Rueck said. “It’s so fun to work with a group that wants to be elite and now knows they can be.”

UCLA, Utah gassed

Due to playing three games over seven days, the Bruins and Utes can be somewhat excused for running low on fumes Sunday.

The second-ranked Bruins trailed by 16 points at halftime and 20 in the third quarter at home against Washington State before closing within one with 20 seconds left. Kiki Rice and Charisma Osborne had 3-point cracks at forcing what would have been UCLA’s second overtime game of the week, but they missed.

WSU’s Leger-Walker had 17 points before her injury. Then it was up to Bella Murekatete (20 points), Eleonora Villa (17) and Tara Wallack (14) to finish off the upset in WSU history (based on the opponent’s ranking).

Washington’s win over USC was perhaps more surprising since the Huskies had lost their previous two games to ASU a week ago and UCLA on Friday. Kayla Padilla hit a 3-pointer with two seconds left, which cut the Trojans’ deficit to one before game-clinching free throws by Lauren Schwartz.

“This group is so much fun to coach,” UW’s Tina Langley said. “They are selfless and driven to be the best we can be. Lots to learn from this game as always, but I love our focus on the process and the growth we continue to show.”

ASU surpasses benchmark

ASU won Sunday for the second time in three games, beating Cal 76-61 to exceed its conference victory total from last season (one).

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All five Sun Devil starters played 37 or more minutes and scored in double figures, led by Jalyn Brown with 21.

Journey Thompson had two important defensive plays in the final three minutes when Cal was pressuring to take its first lead since the opening minutes.

“It was the momentum of the game,” ASU coach Natasha Adair said of sticking with her starters for all but five minutes combined.

“They were warm. Every possession mattered so you didn’t want to put anyone cold in the game. I just didn’t want to interrupt the rhythm.

“At winning time, I saw it in their eyes. It was 40 minutes of grit and toughness.”

Cal and Oregon were 0-2 on the weekend, while Arizona managed a split despite playing without leading scorer Kailyn Gilbert due to injury.

Wildcats coach Adia Barnes said Gilbert’s status going forward is uncertain, leaving Arizona with only seven available players.

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