Lady Ducks Own The State
The Oregon women’s basketball team completed a crucial sweep of then-No. 7 Oregon State this past weekend, and in dominant fashion. The Lady Ducks first won on Friday in Eugene, 76-64, controlling the game from the tip. After a hot shooting first half, the Ducks led 46-29 at halftime and never relinquished the lead, despite a late fourth quarter run from the Beavers.
In the second game on Sunday, the Ducks had to grind out a 66-57 victory, the first win in Corvallis for head coach Kelly Graves. The big three for Oregon, Sabrina Ionescu, Ruthy Hebard and Satou Sabally, were the best players on the floor all weekend, and led the Ducks to the sweep.
The biggest difference in both games was the Ducks’ offensive rebounding. In the two games combined, Oregon had 26 offensive rebounds, accounting for 31 second chance points. This was big, as the women only shot 38.7% from the field in the second contest.
Furthermore, rebounding was a question going into these matchups, as the Beavers had a distinct size advantage down low. However, the relentless play of Hebard and Sabally proved too much. As I predicted in a previous article, the Ducks did use Sabally at the center position for short periods of time to give Hebard a rest. This created problems for the Beavers, as Sabally used her quickness and athleticism to her advantage.
Oregon Men Take Over First Place
The men’s basketball team also enjoyed a home sweep of the southern California schools, beating USC 79-70 in double overtime, and UCLA 96-75. The star of the weekend for the Ducks was Chris Duarte, who had a combined 54 points, 17 rebounds and 14 steals.
Duarte has stepped up to become a go-to second option for the Ducks, something Oregon greatly needs behind Payton Pritchard, as there has not been a consistent second or third scorer this season. If Duarte can continue this high level of play, it will go a long way towards the Ducks winning the Pac-12 conference.
In addition, the rotation for Dana Altman is starting to take shape. With a starting lineup of Pritchard, Will Richardson, Duarte, Chandler Lawson and Shakur Juiston, to go along with Anthony Mathis and CJ Walker off the bench, Oregon has been getting off to better starts in games.
The player missing out on the most minutes has been Francis Okoro. One of three returning players, and only true center on the roster to start the season, Okoro’s minutes decline is somewhat surprising. However, his play and production simply has not warranted more playing time.
Lawson, Walker and Juiston are a lot more versatile than Okoro on both ends of the court. Defensively, they are able to switch and defend guards more consistently. Offensively, they are able to handle the ball and make more plays for their teammates. These are both areas in which Okoro struggles.
I believe Okoro can help by being more aggressive on both the offensive and defensive glass, while also staying out of foul trouble. Although he is not the most athletic, he has good size and strength, and with the right positioning, can help more on the boards. He is not going to be a guy that the Ducks look to offensively, but a couple extra buckets here and there on offensive rebounds can go a long way.
It will be interesting to see how N’Faly Dante fits back into the rotation when he returns from his knee injury. He is clearly the most talented big on the roster; it’s just a matter of whether he can put it all together to contribute. With missing so much time early on, and now with his injury, it has been hard for him to get into a rhythm this season.
Saying Goodbye To A Legend
In non-Duck related news, the basketball world lost one of its all-time greats on Sunday, when Kobe Bryant was killed in a helicopter crash in California. Bryant, along with eight others, one being his 13 year old daughter, were traveling to a club basketball game when the helicopter went down.
His death hit the Oregon women’s team hard, as Sabrina Ionescu had become close with Bryant over the years, even helping him coach his daughter’s basketball team. Bryant was known to tweet at Ionescu after a big game, and has seen a handful of games in person.
For me, this has been extremely difficult. Growing up, Bryant was my favorite basketball player and someone who inspired me not only to play, but to be the best I could be. His work ethic and dedication, not only to the game of basketball, but to everything he did, was unmatched. Bryant will be greatly missed, but his Mamba Mentality will live on forever.
He looks at the basket.
He lines up the shot.
And the crumpled up piece of paper falls perfectly in the middle of the trash can.
Coach Alex Nordstrand
Eugene, Oregon Top Photo From Twitter
Spencer Thomas, the FishDuck.com Volunteer Editor for this article, is an attorney for the Social Security Administration in Atlanta, Georgia, and coaches football at Hillgrove High School in Powder Springs, GA.
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