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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Beavers celebrate first Final Four, but UConn looms

Oregon State celebrates a 60-57 victory over Baylor in the Dallas Regional final that earned the Beavers a berth in the Final Four. (Brandon Wade / Associated Press)

CORVALLIS, Ore. – They’ve still got at least one more game left this season, but the Oregon State Beavers are already celebrating.

The team arrived on campus on Tuesday afternoon fresh off an NCAA tournament Elite Eight upset of Baylor in Dallas on Monday night. The Beavers get a few days at home before heading off to Indiana to face Connecticut on Sunday.

The top-seeded and undefeated Huskies are considered a clear favorite to win the title this year, but Oregon State took the moment to revel a bit in the program’s first trip to the Final Four.

The Oregon State marching band played “Don’t Stop Believin’ ” when the players arrived at a campus rally Tuesday.

University president Ed Ray likened the team’s turnaround over the past six years under coach Scott Rueck and his coaching staff to rebuilding a home.

“They built it stronger, they built it better and they built it to make history,” Ray told the cheering crowd of orange-clad fans.

Junior Sydney Wiese scored 18 points, including three free throws in the final 33 seconds, giving the second-seeded Beavers (32-4) a 60-57 victory over Baylor in the Dallas Regional final.

Oregon State has won 22 of its past 23 games and has already set a school record for victories this season. The Beavers won the Pac-12 Tournament and shared the regular-season title. Their No. 2 seed was the highest in program history.

At the rally, senior Ruth Hamblin grasped the regional trophy, the cut-down net draped over her shoulders.

The program has seen a resurgence under Rueck, an Oregon State alum who had to hold open tryouts his first season to build a roster.

“We don’t do this just for us. We understand who we represent and we take that seriously,” Rueck told the cheering crowd at Parker Plaza.

But first the Beavers have to face undefeated UConn, the overwhelming favorite to win a fourth straight NCAA championship this season. The Huskies, who have been to nine straight Final Fours – have lost just one of their last 120 games.

Ray noted UConn has beaten a lot of teams in the last 2 1/2 years.

“You know who they haven’t beaten?” Ray asked the crowd. “The Beavers!”