2017 NCAA Tournament Sweet 16, Stockton Region
No. 3 seed Florida State (27-6) vs. No. 2 Oregon State (31-4)
Saturday, March 25, 2017, 3:30 p.m. (PT) / 6:30 p.m. (ET)
Stockton Arena, Stockton, California
Series: Oregon State is 1-0 all-time vs. Florida State, with their only meeting coming in the 1982 WNIT Championship game. The Beavers won the contest 76-60 at the Civic Center in Amarillo, Texas
THE MODERATOR: Please welcome Oregon State Beavers head coach, Scott Rueck.
The Beavers won their first round game against Long Beach State with a score of 56-55 and defeated Creighton in the second round, 64-52. This is Oregon State’s ninth tournament appearance overall and the third time they have reached the round of 16.
First we’ll start with an opening statement from Coach Rueck.
SCOTT RUECK: What an awesome opportunity this team has created once again for them self. As you think back to this point of the year, you reflect a bit. This was a team picked fifth before the season in their own conference, and they have found a way to earn a 2-seed, and then the awesome opportunity to play within our own region to where our fans can travel, and we’re in our same time zone. And how special is that; that we got to have a meal at one of our player’s houses last night.
You know, just a dream scenario for our program, and an incredible opportunity with three other incredible teams. To still be playing at this time of the year means a lot of special things has happened, and that’s true of all three of us.
Three outstanding coaches, three outstanding teams, and an awesome opportunity against an incredible Florida State team tomorrow.
Q. Could you elaborate a little bit more on just how cool it is to play in your own time zone when the other three teams are all from the East Coast and had to fly across the country to get here?
SCOTT RUECK: Well, the opposite has been true for us: This is the first time for us, other than the first two rounds, of course, where we have been in our own time zone all three years, the last three, anyway. To us it’s a bit unique to be honest.
I don’t really see a difference, completely. I mean, for us it’s another game, and it’s another scenario; it feels a bit like conference. You are guaranteed 40 and you hope for 80 minutes, of course, of basketball this weekend.
Other than that, it’s get on a plane and go to a hotel and go play. This time of the year, no matter where you’re at, that’s the case. But the normalcy, maybe that’s the advantage for us. You know, it feels normal.
These teams, though, at this time of year, I think, you know, a year ago we had to travel to Dallas and we played very well that weekend. So I would anticipate the same for these three teams. To be playing at this point, you have a maturity to your program, you have great leadership and you handle any kind of adversity well. You’ve been doing it all year to get here.
So I think those things may not be as significant as maybe people think.
Q. I’ve read how Sydney has wanted to play Florida State. Is that a program you guys catch or have studied, or just watch from afar with some admiration over the years?
SCOTT RUECK: Yeah, you have to have admiration. You know, what Sue’s done is unbelievable. They are always a great team to watch. For some reason, we’ve avoided them just by chance.
We’ve been in a couple of the same places; one, Dallas last year. So we watched them play Baylor in the round of 16, and certainly thought that was a team that if we got out of our DePaul game, we could see them; that they had that much talent that beating Baylor was not out of the question, as good as Baylor was.
You know, they have been fun to watch. You follow Romero; that was a big story and you get Shak Thomas, and so it’s a program that has demanded attention and so they are easy to watch, easy to get to know, and therefore, easy to follow.
For Syd, I’m not really sure. You’ll have to ask her that when she gets in. But for me, I’ve gotten to know Sue over the years and she has northwest ties, and I know that. So it’s a team we haven’t played yet. They provide a lot of challenges, and so it should be a great game.
Q. What goes into stopping a player like Shakayla Thomas, so much athleticism and she can dunk at 5-11. How do you stop such a strong inside threat?
SCOTT RUECK: That’s a great question, and I don’t know if you do, completely stop her. Because of that athleticism, because of her drive and her ability, her skill set where she can hurt you at the rim, you know, literally, and from the perimeter; she provides a lot of challenges.
I think what everybody has seen right now, across the country, is the strengths of our conference. You know, we’ve got five of the 16 out of the Pac-12 and could have easily had six, you know, if things had gone right in the last minute at South Carolina for Arizona State.
I think all of us are really prepared. We’ve got outstanding athletes within this conference. You look at Monique Billings, that’s one that stands out. You look at forces like Kristina Anigwe; certainly Plum; certainly, you know, you just go down the list of all the great players throughout our conference.
And you know, Shak Thomas is another incredible player, and so this team is prepared to adapt game plans, adapt to prepare to stick with game plan as long as it takes and to be as gritty as necessary to get the job done.
And with a player that’s as formidable as that, that’s what you have to do. I don’t know if you stop her, but hopefully, hopefully, we can make her really work for whatever she gets.
Q. What appealed about Kat Tudor as a recruit and how has that translated to her first season playing college ball?
SCOTT RUECK: Kat’s a dream. The first thing that stands out is her ability to shoot the ball. I mean, that’s the first thing.
When you get in a gym and watch a team play and you see somebody hit seven threes in the first half of a game, I don’t care what kind of a game it is, that stands out. And then you start doing your research, and you find out who she is as a person and where she comes from in regards to her family and parents, all you see is first class, incredible competitor and high character. A.
Then you keep looking and find out she played at St. Marys Stockton, of course I knew that before. And then we have the parallels with Ali Gibson, who was one of the pillars of our program and our first true four-year recruit at Oregon State in my time there; same program in high school, same AAU program and plays the same way. And Ali had an incredible career and started every game she played for Oregon State. And so, you look at all those things.
And you know, in recruiting, you’re basically trying to limit gambles and you’re trying to make great guesses, really, on your research, and everything aligned for Kat to be a great fit at Oregon State, and that’s what she’s been and will be.
So she’s an awesome addition. Stretches the floor, is picking up our system, and joined a team that has turned out to be a Top-10 team and adapting very well. That was a big-time recruit for us, and she’s going to have an incredible career.
Q. What does it say about Geno’s love for women’s basketball in general when he opens up his sweatshirt today and shows a Quinnipiac t-shirt underneath?
SCOTT RUECK: I think he can relate and I know I can. There’s a lot of coaches that have been very successful for a long period of time that started at the bottom. And you look back at where Connecticut was, where he took over, and where Tricia, you know, what she’s accomplished in her career.
I was not familiar with them until, really, this year, because we played them in December. And researched her and had her Wikipedia up (laughs). And who is she and why is this team so good? It was kind of funny, because we went down to shake hands with her, and she said, “Oh, it’s great to meet you.”
I’m like, “Me? How about you?” I’m like, “I’m excited to meet you,” and all the things that she’s accomplished.
So I think Geno just respects that grind. There’s a reason he’s where he is, and it’s due to hard work and grit. You think with a team that has as much talent as Connecticut has now and has for 25,30 years, but his job is easy. Quite the opposite.
It’s evident this year, as every year: He know what he’s doing and they work hard and they are as gritty as any team there is. So he respects that story, no matter where it comes from.
And so I don’t know what their relationship is. I don’t have the insight into that. But it doesn’t surprise me. And so for me, yeah, I think every coach, that’s a great idea that he had.
But if every coach could do the same thing, I think we’d all do it, because what an awesome story that is. For a team to go into Miami like they did and play the way they did and take every punch and just answer it time and again; it’s very similar to what Long Beach State did the other day at our place, very similar. You’ve got a team that’s pretty much overmatched but just plays with so much heart and they give themselves a chance and they are fighting like crazy, and they have veterans and so much grit.
When you think of UCONN, you think of grit and toughness and sustained excellence. I think that’s him tipping his cap to a program that’s doing it right in every which way, every way that he respects.
Q. What does it say and mean that this senior class is the first in school history to have made the NCAA Tournament all four years?
SCOTT RUECK: Well, you’ve got a group that believed in a vision and had the courage and toughness to see it through; the competitive will and the fight to not only get there but to do every little thing right.
You know, what they have done within our conference is unprecedented by anybody other than Stanford. To win this conference three straight years and to go 16-2 three straight years in a conference is absolutely remarkable, when the conference, as everybody is saying, is the best it’s ever been.
You know, for those of us who have been around and have been able to experience Gill coliseum, I know Dawn’s got something very special going at South Carolina with their fans, and that happens a few places in the country. But Gill coliseum has some magic to it that I think would be hard to match anywhere, and that’s because of these seniors, and the seniors from last year, as well.
I don’t know if you know the whole story; if there’s a better story in our game, than what they have done. I get to talk about them with so much pride and I’m so proud of them the way they conduct themselves, because they have made this whole thing bigger than them the entire time, and they truly have become an inspiration to anybody they have come in contact with.
For me, it’s just been an absolute dream, you know, to be able to be in the gym with them for four straight years and watch them grow, not only as players, but especially as people and leaders, and take on, this year, the expectations in their minds, were to get right back here. No one else, though, had that expectation.
And so when those expectations on the outside dropped, they said no. No, we are going to get back to where we were a year ago. And for me, to basically to get out of the way and watch it happen has been a joy and a dream.
This post is part of the thread: 2017 NCAA Tournament – an ongoing story on this site. View the thread timeline for more context on this post.