It's always a guessing game whenever a star player gets injured. It's hard to predict how a certain team will play without its best player, although it usually goes down one of two ways.

The team either struggles to fill the void the injured player left, or it actually gets better because more players get a chance to show what they can do.

When the Oregon State women's basketball team lost sophomore guard Jamie Weisner in early February, it was initially unclear which path it'd take. Weisner averaged a team-high 13.8 points prior to her injury. Last year as a freshman, Weisner led the team in scoring with 12.5 per game.

Widely regarded as the team's most talented offensive player, her injury could have been crippling to the team. When she went down, OSU was sitting on a 12-9 record, and was 4-5 in conference play. The record was good, but not great.

That's when Weisner broke her hand and had to sit out the following nine games.

The team responded by going a perfect 9-0 without her.

There are two big reasons the Beavers weathered her injury so well.

The first is that Oregon State's schedule got a lot easier immediately after Weisner got injured. After playing five different top-25 teams with her, the Beavers played only one top-25 team during her absence. Additionally, the majority of their nine-game winning streak came at home.

Still, that doesn't account for the perfect record.

Oregon State was able to flourish due to the rise of two players, who stepped in to fill the void she left.

Sophomore center Ruth Hamblin and freshman guard Gabby Hanson turned into big-time contributors.

Prior to her injury, both Hamblin and Hanson had shown glimpses of their potential, but they weren't putting it together on a game-to-game basis. When they played well, the whole team played well.

For example, during OSU's back-to-back Civil War victories, the two were unstoppable.

Hamblin had a monstrous first game against the Ducks, setting career-highs with points (27) and rebounds (16), while recording five blocks. Two days later, she came back to record the third ever triple-double in school history. She had 23 points, 12 rebounds and 10 blocks.

Hanson went off as well. She scored 19 points off 8-for-9 shooting in just 22 minutes of play. Her performance seemed to come out of nowhere, because in nonconference games to open the season, she averaged only 3.4 points and 2.4 rebounds.

Hamblin and Hanson showed they were capable of making big impacts on games, but it wasn't until Weisner got injured that the team started banking on their production. Fortunately for the Beavers, Hamblin and Hanson were more than ready to answer the call.

Hanson went on to average 9.7 points and 5.2 rebounds in conference games, ending the season with the best percentage in the conference from 3-point range (44.3 percent). Hanson was rewarded with a Pac-12 All-Freshman Honorable Mention.

Similarly, Hamblin only averaged 6.2 points, 7.2 rebounds and 3.3 blocks during nonconference games. When Pac-12 games started, and especially after Weisner went down, she tore it up, averaging 12.7 points, 9.4 rebounds and 4.2 blocks. She was named as an All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention and also got a spot on the All-Defensive Team.

Oregon State's easier schedule and the emergence of Hamblin and Hanson were the reasons the team did so well in Weisner's absence.

Now she's healthy again and the team will only get better with its potent scorer back on the floor. She got some playing time during the Pac-12 Tournament, playing in all three games.

She came off the bench in those games as she'll gradually get reintroduced to the team. She played well, and head coach Scott Rueck said that he loved what she brought to the table.

Weisner hasn't missed a step after sitting out for a month, while Hamblin and Hanson both got much better over that same time frame.

The three players coming together means one thing: This team could make some noise in the NCAA Tournament when it begins March 22.

Mitch Mahoney, sports reporter

On Twitter @MitchIsHere

sports@dailybarometer.com

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