By Steve Gress

Corvallis Gazette-Times

While Oregon State will no doubt be one of the 64 teams in the NCAA women’s basketball tournament when the brackets are announced between 4 and 5 p.m. on Monday, the Beavers know they let a guarantee slip away last week.

Win their Pac-12 tournament quarterfinal game against Washington and a top-4 seed and the opportunity to host the first and second round games would have been all but a lock.

The Beavers entered the week as the overall No. 11 seed (the third No. 3 seed) according to the selection committee.

Instead, Oregon State squandered a 14-point second-quarter lead in what turned out to be a 68-67 punch-to-the-gut setback and another early exit from the conference tourney.

Now the Beavers will have to anxiously await to see how much, if any, damage their loss to the Huskies may have caused.

“You have some regrets the past weekend about not solidifying that you are hosting for sure,” junior guard Mikayla Pivec said earlier this week. “We still have a really good chance to host but one win in the Pac-12 tournament would have solidified that for us. So that’s hard to realize.

“Now all we can do is work on getting better in the gym and working on strength training and waiting until Monday when we find out our next step.”

The Beavers had some down time this week with the coaches taking some time away for recruiting.

The break was a little longer than the Beavers had hoped for with the early exit. And while the extra time to rest and recover from the grueling regular season might seem to be a positive, that’s not how Pivec sees it.

“I think either way if you lose early or if you go to the championship you still have a week of rest and recovery to get ready for the NCAA Tournament mentally and physically,” she admitted.

Last year, a quarterfinal loss to Arizona State sent the Beavers packing for the NCAA Tournament and Pivec said that setback played a role in their run to the Elite Eight.

The Beavers were the No. 6 seed and headed to Knoxville, Tennessee, where they knocked off Western Kentucky in the opener before handing the Lady Vols their first ever home loss in the NCAA Tournament.

Then came a win over Baylor in the Sweet 16 before falling to No. 1 seed Louisville with a chance to go to the Final Four.

“Last year it really lit a fire under us in terms of saying, ‘Hey, we want to finish the season out strong,’ and ended up working out really well for us,” Pivec said. “This year I’m hoping we do the same thing. We have no guarantees now. We know if we lose one more game we’re done. We have to realize that.”

The unexpected loss to the Huskies, a team they defeated 86-39 the last time they played — in Seattle — was a shock.

“It was a really disappointing Pac-12 tournament for us,” Pivec said. “We had high expectations going in and we just didn’t come out with enough fire, individually and collectively (as a team), and we didn’t come out with enough fire to match their intensity and how bad Washington wanted it and we didn’t shoot it as well as we are capable of.”

Oregon State will enter the NCAA Tournament — its sixth straight trip — with a 24-7 record. However, the Beavers are just 5-4 over their last nine games and are 2-4 away from home in that stretch. Three of the four losses were to likely No. 2 seeds Stanford and Oregon, as well as NCAA tourney team Arizona State.

“I think it shows how deep this conference is,” Pivec said. “Those teams are really good teams. It shows how competitive this conference is and I think we haven’t really had a game where all five of our starters play really well at the same time. I’m hoping that happens in the NCAA Tournament because when that happens we can be a really tough out.”