Beavers aim to stay focused, welcome Utah challenge

Corvallis, Ore. -- Oregon State women's basketball found themselves holding steady in the most recent AP Top 25 poll, sitting at No. 9, just a hair behind No. 8 Stanford and in striking distance of their in-state rivals, No. 4 Oregon. Even the Beavers three losses look relatively better in hindsight, given Notre Dame (No. 5), Texas A&M (No. 20) and Arizona State (No. 21) all entered week 13 ranked. But this week of games provides the highs and lows of Pac-12 play: a home stand against bottom-ranked Colorado, and emerging contender Utah. 

While the Buffaloes have struggled in conference, still looking for their first win, it's not in the nature of head coach Scott Rueck or his team to look ahead to Sunday's top table tilt against the Utes. 

"We can't just look past a team like Colorado," says senior guard Katie McWilliams. "It's a good reminder. Scott's gonna not just look past Colorado, we're gonna prepare the same way we will for any other team." 

But with that said, it's hard not to see what lies in store on Sunday. Utah enters their road trip to the Oregon schools fresh off an upset win against Stanford, and a 7-1 record in the Pac-12. Beneath the top ranked Ducks, who are undefeated in conference play, a three way tie will play itself out between the Cardinal, Utes and Beavers. And as long as the teams retain a high ranking, cannibalizing each other in conference may actually be a good thing. 

"It helps us in the hunt to try and get a higher seed or try to knock off the top dog in Oregon or Stanford that are ahead of us," junior Mikayla Pivec says of Utah's weekend upset. "We know that Utah's a really good team well for both teams this weekend." 

Head Coach Scott Rueck remains unfazed by any potentially tectonic shifts in the landscape of the Pac-12, knowing full well that most of these waxes and wanes will play themself out come March. 

"You watch and are just like 'okay' they're playing well this year," says Rueck. "I can't control what they're doing and why waste energy watching Utah two weeks ago when I got other things to worry about. But this week I'm worried about Utah cause we're playing them this week." 

What the Utes do add is another contender in an already competitive Pac-12. Five teams currently sit in the Top 25, while Cal is receiving votes. The Beavers host Colorado at 7:00 p.m. in Gill Coliseum on Friday night and then take on Utah at 12 p.m. on Sunday.

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