The Oregon Women’s basketball team is coming off their first loss of the season, and their first loss in 27 games, to PAC-12 opponent UCLA. In what was a hard fought game, the Ducks had multiple opportunities at the end to either tie or take the lead, but came up just short 74-72. At times in that game the youth and game inexperience showed, as the toughness and pressure from the Bruins proved to be too much.
As talented as this group is, some losses were to be expected with the youth of this team. The real question now is: how do they respond? Do they bounce back and continue their strong early season play? Or do they take this loss hard, and go into a funk? We are all going to find out very soon what this team is made of, as they turn right around and face No. 1 Stanford on the road tomorrow at 11:30am.
There are key matchups for this matchup that if the Ducks can win, could give them a chance to upset the Cardinal in a dominant victory. The first is being the play of the point guards, Te-Hina Paopao for Oregon, and Kiana Williams for Stanford. Williams, a senior, certainly has the experience advantage, but Paopao has shown early on that she has the toughness and competitive streak to take on any challenge, and might even be the more naturally talented player. If Paopao is able to get the best of this matchup, the Ducks will be right there in the end.
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The star player for Stanford is Haley Jones. The former number one overall player in country is showing why she was so highly rated this season. Averaging nearly 15 points and 10 rebounds a game, Jones is a versatile guard who is very good with the ball in her hands. It will need to be a team effort to contain her.
Inside features another really good matchup between Nyara Sabally and Francesca Belibi. Belibi, who might be best known for her dunk against UCLA this season, is a very solid low post player and will be a tough test for Sabally, who has been playing very well this year. Sabally does have the height advantage at 6’4″, which should give her a strong edge over Belibi.
One player to watch out for is former Oregon prep standout, Cameron Brink. Brink who played at Southridge and Mountainside high school, is averaging 12 points, 7 rebounds and 2.5 blocks in only 16 minutes per game. If the Ducks are able to neutralize her effectiveness, it would go a long way in their pursuit for the upset win.
For the Ducks, Taylor Mikesell could be the x-factor to this game. When she is shooting the ball well, this team has completely different energy on offense. If she is able to get going early, and force the Cardinal to respect her three point shot that much more, it will open up the court for everyone else on the team.
This is an exciting game for many reasons, but what it will really show is where this Oregon team is at. Play a tough, close game, even in a loss, and it proves this is a team that can hang with anyone in the country. Play sloppy in a blowout loss, and it tells the Ducks where they need to go in order to achieve their goals.
Coach Alex Nordstrand
Top photo by Eugene Johnson
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