Oregon’s women’s team continued its great season on Friday against Oregon State in front of a sold-out crowd. (The men? Not so much.) Sabrina Ionescu is playing like the National Player of the Year. The pick and roll with Ruthy Hebard has become devastating. Teams have to pick their poison with those two and a waiting Satou Sabally and Erin Boley on the wing, who hit threes with their eyes closed.
The second-ranked Ducks are in the driver’s seat for a Pac-12 regular-season title, a number-one NCAA seed and a solid path to the Final Four.
On Friday, the big three of Ionescu, Hebard and Sabally accounted for 68 of Oregon’s 77 points, and they dominated on the glass. The Ducks’ 12 offensive rebounds wore on Oregon State, and took the bite out of the Beaver defense late in the game.
Monday was a different story, as I thought it might be. Beating the Beavers once is tough, doing it twice in four days with the second game on the road, nearly impossible. Hebard went down, and the Beavers made Oregon shoot the mid-range almost exclusively. OSU left their bigs on the block, ran Oregon’s shooters off he arc, and held Oregon in check in the first half. You have to give OSU credit, but the Ducks also missed shots they normally make.
The third quarter was the Sabally and Ionescu show. With Hebard out, coach Kelly Graves also put Boley on the block, and she delivered with a back-to-the-basket, back down turnaround basket. We may see a lot more of that if Hebard doesn’t return soon. Boley played really well on the block on defense as well. In the end, after leading 52-50 Ionescu missed an easy layup on a break where she could have just jump stopped, and the Beavers hit more shots and their free throws down the stretch.
Oregon is ranked second and will still be a number-one seed when the new bracketology comes out. Now they can just play the rest of the way and prepare for the Pac-12 tourney. And we all root for a fast healing Ruthy Hebard, folks.
What’s Next for the Men?
After leading 42-40 with a little over 12 minutes to play, it’s safe to say the Ducks had nothing left. 18 turnovers absolutely killed them. Anyone else miss Casey Benson about now? They also failed to score a single point in the last 3:45 of the first half, showing they don’t have a go-to scorer who can get them a basket or a free throw when they need it.
Oregon is now 15-10 overall. This is an NIT season unless Oregon does the impossible and wins the Pac-12 tournament. A lot of blame will fly at the coaching staff, but I really feel that’s unwarranted. Bol Bol and Louis King played 31 total minutes together this year, and Kenny Wooten was out for a month. That’s three starters on a team that already lost six players from last year’s team. It’s kind of a miracle that they’ve won 15 when you consider that.
I think everyone would like to erase Payton Pritchard’s year and start over, but I still like his effort. He just hasn’t been able to adjust to playing off guard or wing without the ball in his hands. Will Richardson has had sparks, but he’s playing a lot like a true freshman. Great at times, but inconsistent as well. Paul White’s scoring has come up a little, but he’s still an ineffective rebounder and an average defender at best. Ehab Amin and Victor Bailey Jr. are completely unreliable at hitting wide open shots.
Let’s make no excuses. Oregon could easily have another three or four wins at this point and solidly be on the the NCAA tourney bubble. But without Bol in the lineup, the Ducks just don’t have the offensive horsepower to overcome all their other flaws.
Oregon gets chances to avenge the Washington loss and the UCLA meltdown, and has the Arizona schools at home. This is likely an 18-13 team. They now need to win the conference tournament to get to the dance.
Lake Oswego, OregonTop Photo from Women’s Hoops World
Bob Rodes, the FishDuck.com Volunteer editor for this article, is an IT analyst, software developer and amateur classical pianist in Manchester, Tennessee.
A native Oregonian, Bob’s spent 16 years covering Duck football and basketball for AOL Fanhouse, OregonLive and Rivals.com. He’s also hosted a sports talk show on ESPN Radio and led marketing for the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame.
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