Three issues the Geese ladies want to complete the season sturdy
Monday night was insane for coach Kelly Graves and the ducks.
But despite the 79:59 home loss of Oregon No. 11 to Arizona No. 10, the program is selected to compete in the March Madness of the NCAA women’s tournament for the fifth consecutive year.
The Ducks (12-4, 9-4 Pac-12) were still 6th on the NET rankings Tuesday and 11th in this week’s Associated Press poll.
This season just feels different without fans and as a young team it’s about being the fourth best team in the Pac-12 after years of Final Four expectations.
Oregon is 0-4 against the three teams ahead of them in the standings – Stanford (17-2, 14-2), Arizona (12-2, 10-2) and UCLA (11-3, 9-3).
If the three-time reigning Pac-12 champions have hope of a four-peat, Oregon will almost certainly have to beat the fifth cardinal at Matthew Knight Arena next Monday and the eighth Bruins on February 19 in Los Angeles.
ESPN’s NCAA tournament bracket projection on Tuesday put the ducks in fourth place as starting number 4.
“It was just difficult. It was a challenge to find what would work with the group that we have. The group we have from week to week was different, ”said Graves. “We only have five league games left, but I’m confident we’ll find that. I really am.
“That’s all I can do is believe in our group.”
Graves knew that Sabrina Ionescu, Ruthy Hebard, and Satou Sabally would be a difficult task even for the nation’s senior recruiting class.
That doesn’t mean the growing pain won’t hurt.
“It’s disappointing,” Graves said after being swept by the Wildcats. “I have no other words to say. Look, I am proud of our team. You played hard. They played hard until the end. We just didn’t play that well. “
Oregon can still cause matchup issues for most teams in March with a lead from Nyara Sabally (6-foot-5), Sedona Prince (6-7) and Lydia Giomi (6-6).
Despite losing 20 points, the Ducks had a 38-32 advantage over Arizona.
Sabally, Prince and Giomi scored a combined 33 points in 14v20 (70%).
When Sabally missed one game with an ankle injury and Prince missed five games with a leg injury, Graves claimed the Ducks would be fine if they were healthy and ready to lean on them in the postseason.
Sabally leads the team on points (12.5 points per game) and rebound (7.6 rebounds per game), and Prince has had double-digit results in all four games since returning to the starting line-up.
“They are a top 10 team,” Adia Barnes said of Oregon after winning Eugene for the first time as Arizona coach. “They’re in 11th place, but I think they’re better than that.”
If the ducks are ready for a run this season, here are three areas that need immediate attention.
As soon as Ionescu stepped on campus, it was clear that she had chosen Oregon to lead the program to national notoriety.
What followed was a historic run that included two elite eight runs, the program’s first Final Four appearance, and deal with a national championship that was still ongoing due to the pandemic.
There are no clear leaders on the 2020-21 list due to a variety of factors.
Senior starter Erin Boley is naturally calm and struggles to find consistency while playing with a bad back. Giomi, a fifth year senior, is a great mentor in the locker room but an RPG on the court.
Potential front-runners Taylor Chavez and Prince missed too many games to take the reins, while Jaz Shelley and Taylor Mikesell missed too many shots to safely dominate the timeout groups.
The real newbies are all talented but haven’t had a chance to connect with their teammates outside of the Matthew Knight Arena in a COVID-19 world of extrajudicial isolation.
“It has to be done organically,” said Graves. “I can say that you are our leader, but if the rest of the team doesn’t see it that way … I think this is something we really want to work on. I’m trying not to be negative here. I try to be as positive as possible, but we only have problems and that’s one of them.
“We have to find a way, so it doesn’t always come from the bank. I can’t always be that guy. It has to come from them. Until it does, we’ll get such results. It will.” Some nights it looks good and some nights it doesn’t look so good. “
Better shoot 3s
While Oregon’s Bigs were going on, the Perimeter players saw another fall on the ESPN stage on Monday night.
The ducks were 3-for-15 (20%) on 3-pointers while the wildcats could finish 9-for-15 (60%) off the bow.
“There’s the difference in the game. There are 18 points (difference) out of 3, ”said Graves. “We shot the exact same amount and they did 9 against 15 and we did 3 against 15. We lose at 20.
“I don’t know. For the most part, I thought we took some pretty good shots and got them.”
During Oregon’s 57:41 loss at Tucson, the visitors were 3-11 (27.3%) to 3-1, and Arizona was 5-16 (31.3%).
Shelley, who started the last two games with Chavez and Maddie Scherr due to COVID-19 logs, has been in a shooting slump throughout the season.
Mikesell made eight 3-points in the season opener and only 21 in the last 15 games.
“For the most part we had pretty good 3s and they just don’t go,” said Graves. “It’s ultimately a trust problem, but it’s a problem that you have to work halfway on yourself.”
Boley is the team’s second ion in the ranking (10.9 ppg) and shoots 41.2% out of the 3-point range.
Dealing with previous issues, Boley doesn’t look like Oregon fans got used to lighting up the scoreboard for the past two seasons as opposing defenses focused on the Big Three.
During the game on Monday, Boley finished the 4-1 shootout in 18 minutes with two points. She missed her only shot and was limited to 12 minutes when she first met in Arizona.
Boley had taken the Ducks with 17 points in 7v13 shooting to trigger the comeback win against UC Davis last Saturday.
“Let her do that,” said Graves. “She is five years older, she has been on some really good basketball teams and we have to rely on her.”
Contact reporter Ryan Thorburn at email@example.com or 541-338-2330 and follow him on Twitter @By_RyanThorburn. Do you want more stories like this? Subscribe for full access and support local journalism.