Oregon State’s Sydney Wiese always wears a headband during games.
It’s a Nike one, and she wears it low on her forehead with the logo sitting right above and between her eyebrows. It’s either red, black or white, depending on what color her jersey is.
She’ll more than likely wear it when No. 10 Oregon State (15-1, 4-0 Pac-12) plays No. 17 UCLA (11-4, 2-2) Friday in Pauley Pavilion. The headband, as with many things that the guard brings to the basketball court, is consistent, predictable even.
What was less predictable was the Beavers’ rise to the top of the conference. Last year the team won the Pac-12 and made the Final Four but weren’t anticipated to do so again. They lost both the Pac-12 Player of the Year in Jamie Weisner and the two-time conference Defensive Player of the Year in Ruth Hamblin who both graduated and were subsequently drafted by the WNBA.
The Pac-12 coaches picked them to finish fifth in the conference – some regression was to be expected.
Instead it has been more of the same, as the Beavers have come out undefeated in conference play and only one loss on the season.
“Oregon State is playing the best basketball in the conference right now on a consistent basis,” said UCLA coach Cori Close.
UCLA played Oregon State three times last year. Wiese was injured the first game and didn’t play as the Bruins rolled to a 20-point win. The guard was back for the last two meetings and the Beavers won both games by double digits, the final time in the Pac-12 tournament championship.
This season, Oregon State has already beaten Washington, Stanford and Cal, all three of which were ranked at the time. The Beavers have won their last 12 games, and Wiese is shooting 47 percent from three. She has already broken the conference record for career 3-pointers and become the only player in Pac-12 history to hit over 300 of them.
The three-time all-conference player is also averaging 16 points and grabbing five rebounds a game.
At the same time, Oregon State has proven to be strong well beyond just Wiese. The team has nine players averaging at least 10 minutes per game, including two freshmen.
“I’m really impressed with how their new kids have stepped into roles,” Close said. “We knew what Sydney Wiese was going to do. … They’re role players that have stepped into new roles, and I really think they’re doing a good job.”
UCLA is trending in the opposite direction. They lost their last two games and dropped eight spots in the AP poll from No. 9 to No. 17.
The Bruins do have some matchups that could work in their favor against the Beavers. They have the length on the perimeter to potentially bother Wiese and may get looks inside against a young Oregon State front court.
“We gotta take away their best player, which is Sydney Wiese,” said sophomore guard Kennedy Burke. “We just have to stop her, stop the shooters, and I think we’ll be good.”