OSU women dancing for first time since '96

OREGON STATE's women's hoops team is going dancing again for the first time since 1996. The Beavers closed the season on an 11-1 run and that vaulted them into the NCAA tournament. The Beavs will play Sunday at 5 pm in Seattle. Their opponent will be 8 seed Middle Tennessee. Oregon State (23-10) is the No. 9 seed in the region.

All games of the NCAA Women's Basketball Championship will air on ESPN networks. Sunday's game is slated for ESPN2. Middle Tennessee will be making its sixth straight NCAA tournament appearance. The Blue Raiders were ranked No. 22 in the final AP poll after winning 28 of their final 29 games. Oregon State's chances for victory would seem to rest on slowing down Conference USA Player of the Year Ebony Rowe. The 6-foot-1 senior forward is averaging 21.7 ppg 11.7 rebounds. She has logged a double-double 25 times this season.

But the hallmark of this Oregon State team is defense. The Beavers' .349 field goal percentage defense leads the Pac-12 and is seventh in the nation.

They're pretty good on offense too. Oregon State shoots 44 percent from the floor, its highest clip since converting 44.3 percent in 1995-96.

OSU is 21st in the nation in 3-point field goals made per game (8.2) and 15th in 3-point field goal percentage (.371). The Beavers average 71.0 points per outing. OSU hadn't been above 70 since 1995-96 (72.8).

Four players -- Alyssa Martin, Ali Gibson, Sydney Wiese, Jamie Weisner -- are among the school's career top 10 in 3-point makes.

But OSU may only just be beginning. There are nine underclassmen among OSU's 11 players.

Oregon State won 23 games for only the third time in program history and first since 1982-83. The Beavers went a school-record 13-5 in Pac-12 play and matched their best-ever finish in the final conference standings, tying for second.

If Oregon State wins Sunday, they figure to face their biggest challenge of the entire season in the next game, provided No. 1 seed South Carolina (27-4) gets by No. 16 Cal State Northridge (18-14). The winners of the two first-round games meet on Tuesday, March 25.

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