SportsWomen's Basketball

Oregon women’s basketball prepares for Arizona schools, anticipates Amanda Johnson’s return

Portland State's Kate Lanz fouls Nia Jackson after the speedy point guard got by her during Oregon's 75-71 victory. Jackson finished with seven points and was hobbeled by a balky knee. (Alex McDougall/Oregon Daily Emerald)

The Oregon women’s basketball team will face squads with contrasting styles when it hosts Arizona and Arizona State this week. @@[email protected]@

Arizona, which will visit Matthew Knight Arena at 7 p.m. tonight, plays with an up-tempo style similar to Oregon’s fast-paced offense. The Wildcats (12-3, 1-2 Pac-12) are fourth in the conference in points per game, but only ninth in points allowed. @@[email protected]@ @@[email protected]@ @@[email protected]@

In contrast, Arizona State (10-4, 1-2), which will be in Eugene on Saturday afternoon, ranks third in the league in scoring defense, but last in points per game. @@[email protected]@ @@[email protected]@

“For us, they’re two different teams,” Duck coach Paul Westhead said. “Arizona’s the get out and go team, and Arizona State is the sticky, half-court, slow the game down, control. They’re dead opposites.” @@[email protected]@

But the Ducks don’t plan to alter their approach for either team. Oregon thinks its fast-paced offense can be effective against any style.

“Arizona, they are going to want to run with us so we need to make sure we keep up our pace to try to break them, if not at the end of the game, way sooner,” Oregon forward Danielle Love said. “We can use our pace to our advantage, because they do like to run, too. @@[email protected]@

“Arizona State, we’re not sure how much they’ll like to run so we need to use our pace again to our advantage and do it right from the get go.”

Oregon also hopes to be more successful rebounding than it was in last week’s losses to Cal and Stanford. The Ducks were out-rebounded 47-40 by Stanford, and more disturbingly, 63-26 by the Bears. @@[email protected]@ @@[email protected]@

As such, rebounding has been a chief focus in practice this week.

“We’ve been practicing a lot, being a lot more ruthless in our rebounding, trying to go after each other a lot harder and more than we have been in the past,” Love said. “We’re taking it out on our teammates, so we definitely better take it out on the other teams.”

But having lost six of its past eight games, Oregon would take a win in any fashion. @@[email protected]@

“I think more than anything of course, get a win,” Duck guard Ariel Thomas said. “We’re 1-3 right now in the (Pac-12) season I think and we need to turn it around, at least get to .500, back to where it was, and just play hard. I think we’re more than capable.”

Johnson nearing return

Oregon could soon receive a boost by the return of Amanda Johnson. The senior forward who fractured her thumb in Oregon’s Dec. 11 loss to Denver will be evaluated by doctors today and could receive a clean bill of health, though it’s unlikely she’ll be active for the Arizona game. @@[email protected]@

“Based on the re-examination, there will be some news on what it is,” Westhead said.

Oregon has leaned heavily upon freshman Liz Brenner in Johnson’s absence. Brenner starred for Oregon’s volleyball team in the fall, and only joined the basketball program in mid-December. @@[email protected]@

Brenner has played in six games for the Ducks, made three starts, and is averaging 4.0 points and 4.7 rebounds per game. @@[email protected]@

“She made an incredible transition from doing nothing, I think she said she hadn’t played basketball in a year,” Westhead said.

Brenner’s impact on the Ducks has been greater than her statistics indicate. By assuming Johnson’s role and responsibilities, Brenner has prevented Oregon’s other players from being forced to play out of position.

“She has been slotted there, so it allowed the others to go about their normal routine of the game,” Westhead said.

Still, Oregon’s veteran coach is itching to have Johnson back healthy.

“I’m looking forward to the day when they’re both on the court together,” Westhead said.

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