KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Nobody is happier than Marie Gulich to see her Oregon State teammates draining 3-pointers.
The 6-foot-5 senior knows opponents will have to pick their poison against the Beavers. If they focus on Gulich, OSU's guards can take over. If they extend to the perimeter, Gulich will have a field day inside.
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.
The Beavers built their lead with 3-pointers, and Gulich cemented the win with a closing flury.
"It takes a lot of pressure off of me and puts a lot of pressure on the defense because they can't double me anymore, which is good for me because I can play one-on-one," said Gulich, who finished 11 for 15 from the field. "And it's good for me because if I get doubled I can kick it out and they can make shots from outside. I think it's just a perfect chemistry between all of us."
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 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 layups to keep the Beavers comfortably ahead. She scored 17 points in the third quarter alone to give OSU a 68-43 lead.
"This game was going to be about adapting, and that was our mindset going in. Nothing would have surprised us today," Oregon State coach Scott Rueck said. "I kind of assumed they would try to take Marie away early, and I thought we really moved the ball well. I thought that was the key to the game."
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, the Conference USA Player of the Year, 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 points, eight assists and no turnovers, and Katie McWilliams finished with 10 points.
OSU outrebounded WKU 48-27, and limited the Lady Toppers to 32.8 shooting from the field.
"That's a heckuva team," WKU coach Michelle Clark-Heard said. "They were clicking on all cylinders. They got a big-time post and they are leading the country in 3-point shooting, and they just had a fantastic game."
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.
Tashia and Ivy Brown both fought back tears as they described what it meant to have played at WKU. The Browns helped the Lady Toppers win 108 games, which ranks second all-time in program history for a senior class.
"There is no other place I would rather be and no other coach I would rather be playing for these past four years and no other best friend I would rather to be playing with," Ivy Brown said. "It's been really fun and really meaningful."
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.