Corvallis, Ore. -- Oregon State women's basketball head coach Scott Rueck remembers his first Civil War matchup. It was during the 2010-2011 season, a year in which his Beavers finished 9-21, and it was the first game ever at Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene.
"That was overwhelming," Rueck remembers. "The most I think I'd ever coached in front of was 2,000 about. And so to know that hey we're opening a new arena, it's the showcase that year for that arena, sold out, yikes. With our pieced together team that year, and I remember it was an absolute blast. We played so hard and it was so much fun."
Since then, the Beavers have had periods of dominance, interspersed with trips to the NCAA Final Four, Elite Eight and Sweet 16, along with times of fierce competition. Which leads the Civil War rivalry to where it is now: one of the premier women's basketball rivalries in the United States.
"Nobody could've seen this coming that long ago. No way," says Rueck. "Just the build of it, the attention of both programs, the national success both programs have had, that the conference has had, has gotten us a lot of attention. They're household names now. Both teams have players that go by one name on their roster. It's awesome. It's just awesome."
2020 marks the second straight year that the Beavers and Ducks will meet as AP top 10 teams in the series. Last year, Oregon State lost to Oregon at Matthew Knight Arena before turning around and outlasting the Ducks at Gill Coliseum a couple of days later. So far this season, OSU is 16-2 and ranked no. 7, up 1 spot from last week. Their late loss to no. 6 Stanford at home was a tough pill to swallow, but also one that spurred some serious introspection ahead of what is arguably the toughest weekend series of their season.
"Obviously Sunday was a bummer," explains junior guard Aleah Goodman. "We're upset, we didn't feel like we didn't perform great. We know what we have to do and we have to play better than that. For me, I need to shoot better. As a team we have to handle the ball better, and we have to make plays down the stretch."
"We just didn't execute like we could've," Rueck continues. "It was absolutely a winnable game. We were in position. We played hard, we just need to be a little cleaner in the way that we execute. They got 20 more shots up in the 4th quarter than we did and yet we had a shot to tie it in the end. We just gotta be cleaner down the stretch."
Games like Stanford, against Oregon this weekend and in the future against the likes of UCLA will be important for a number of reasons. The Pac-12 race remains as tight as ever, but seedings for the conference tournament are dwarfed in importance by the presence of the possibility of being placed in the Portland Regional in the NCAA Tournament. In the current ESPN bracketology by Charlie Creme, the Beavers are projected as two seed in the Greenville regional, opposite no. 1 South Carolina.
But even with those far off goals influencing the drive to win this game, the initial impulse in the Beavers locker room is exceedingly simple: It's the Civil War.
"This rivalry is huge," Goodman says. "The state of Oregon is blessed with two amazing basketball teams in the same state. It's crazy honestly. The fans are amazing in both places. It's gonna be a great place in both games so we're really excited. It's gonna be an amazing game."