SportsWomen's Basketball

Strong defensive effort carries Oregon to first win of season

Oregon women’s basketball head coach Kelly Graves preached defensive performance to his team in the offseason.

In their first game, a 91-43 win over the California State University, Northridge Matadors was any indication, his team is getting the message so far.

“We’re so athletic and long,” sophomore guard Sabrina Ionescu said. “It’s so fun to be out there, especially on defense. We tip balls — we had 21 steals. It’s just so fun. We’re such a good team in transition that just getting those steals and putting the ball in our playmakers hands and be able to run in transition, it’s really fun to play like that.”

The Ducks made it difficult for the Matadors to score in this game. In the first quarter, the Matadors were held to just one field goal, five in the second, two in the third and four in the fourth quarter.

The Ducks were consistent in transition, putting together 22 points, and their strong defense limited CSUN’s ability to get out in transition, on one of the two third-quarter field goals.

With such a strong defensive performance, this game was never in doubt. The Ducks controlled throughout the game, holding a 53-20 halftime advantage.

But it was the third quarter that told the story in this game, where CSUN was held without a field goal for eight minutes and 46 seconds of the quarter.

“As a coach, that makes me really happy when you’re coming out of a timeout, up with a sizable lead and we kept the pedal to the metal and we kept guarding,” Graves said. “That’s the sign of a mature basketball team, which is really good. … We switched some defenses all night long, and had some success with a few different things.”

In the third, the Matadors scored just four free throws and two field goals. With that effort, the Ducks extend to a 79-28 lead after three quarters, in part thanks to a 22-2 run in the third.

“I thought defensively we were on point tonight,” Graves said. “We created a lot of our offense off our defense early.”

The Ducks forced 29 turnovers in the game, which resulted in 36 Oregon points to help maintain the advantage over the Matadors all night.

“It’s probably not going to happen all the time,” Graves said. “I think we just got them off their game early and that was a good sign. We’re not the most athletic team in the world, but if we’re playing good team defense and we’re in sync then yes, we’ll create some turnovers.”

The game against the Matadors was just the first of what the Ducks hope will be a long Women’s National Invitational Tournament run. Should the Ducks keep advancing, they would face three more opponents throughout this event.

“I think we made a really good basketball team not play very well tonight,” Graves said. “It’s a good start to the tournament. I told the team after: with each round, the competition gets tougher and tougher. It’s very similar to the NCAA tournament that way.”

Follow Zak Laster on Twitter @zlast3445

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Zak Laster

Zak Laster

Zak Laster is a sports writer for the Daily Emerald. He covers volleyball, women's basketball, golf and baseball. He can be reached at [email protected]