By RHIANNON POTKEY
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Marie Gulich scored 21 of her 29 points in the second half and grabbed 15 rebounds as No. 6 seed Oregon State beat No. 11 Western Kentucky 82-58 in the first round of the women's NCAA Tournament on Friday.
Oregon State (24-7) plays the winner of the Tennessee-Liberty game in the second round of the Lexington Regional on Sunday. The Beavers are attempting to reach their third straight Sweet 16.
The 6-foot-5 Gulich finished 11 of 15 from the field, with a steady stream of layups and short jumpers highlighting her second-half surge.
The national leaders in 3-point field goal percentage, OSU used its precision from distance to build an early advantage.
The Beavers began gaining separation midway through the first quarter with an 11-0 run that gave OSU a 21-9 lead. Sophomore guard Kat Tudor sparked the outburst by scoring eight straight points, including back-to-back 3-pointers.
OSU's defense forced WKU into deep 3-pointers and contested jumpers to help pull away. Tudor's fourth 3-pointer of the first half gave the Beavers a 46-27 advantage right before the break.
Gulich took over for OSU in the second half, running the break and getting baskets inside to keep the Beavers comfortably ahead. She scored 17 points in the third quarter alone to give OSU a 68-43 lead.
Despite a decided crowd advantage encouraging the Lady Toppers to make a run, WKU was never able to threaten the Beavers and suffered its sixth straight first-round NCAA Tournament loss.
Tashia Brown finished with 17 points on 7 of 21 shooting to lead WKU while Ivy Brown scored 14.
Gulich was one of four Beavers in double-figures scoring. Tudor had 19 points, Mikayla Pivec had 15 and Katie McWilliams finished with 10.
OSU outrebounded WKU 48-27, and limited the Lady Toppers to 32.8 shooting from the field.
Oregon State: OSU did what it does best - shoot well from behind the 3-point line, feed Gulich inside and play sound defense - to win a first-round game in the NCAA Tournament for the fifth straight season. Prior to the run of postseason success under coach Scott Rueck, the Beavers hadn't even made the tournament since 1996.
Western Kentucky: The Lady Toppers have big holes to fill with the graduation of the Browns - Tashia and Ivy. The senior leading scorers accounted for more than 50 percent of WKU's offense this season.
Oregon State: The Beavers prepare to face Tennessee for the fifth time in program history. OSU is 0-4 against the Lady Vols.
Western Kentucky: The Lady Toppers return home to begin preparing for next season.
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