SportsWomen's Basketball

Gildon’s career night carries Ducks in Hebard’s absence

During Monday’s practice, Oregon head coach Kelly Graves told junior Oti Gildon that she would get her first start because star forward Ruthy Hebard was ruled out for Tuesday’s game with an injury.

Gildon did not let her team down.

“She’s our Draymond Green and she really played like that today,” head coach Kelly Graves said.

Gildon recorded her first double-double, posting a career-high 20 points on 9-of-11 shooting with 12 rebounds in No. 10 Oregon’s 87-45 win over Hampton. Her stellar performance, though, is no surprise to her.

“I think it started at the end of last year,” Gildon said of her improved play. “I had a good run at the end of last year’s [NCAA] Tournament, so I just wanted to make sure I kept going in the offseason and at the beginning of this season.”

Hebard, who Graves says has a “tweak” from Oregon’s game against Oklahoma in the PK 80 on Saturday, is not suffering from anything serious. In the meantime, Oregon’s depth gets a more time in the limelight.

The Oregon Ducks cheer on their team from the sidelines. The Oregon Ducks play the Hampton Pirates at Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene, Ore. on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017 . (Devin Roux/Emerald)

For Gildon, being Hebard’s replacement is not so simple as the two forwards are not similar.

“I think we’re just different players,” Gildon said. “She has a good post presenc,e and I think I do well playing both post and guard defensively.”

Gildon was close to unstoppable in the game for Oregon. She dominated the paint and kept plays alive for Oregon, which shot at 47.7 percent. Gildon’s presence was felt on rebounds, grabbing nearly 25 percent of all the Ducks’ boards.

Despite playing what was clearly her best game, Gildon elected not to look at the score boards across the four corners of Matthew Knight Arena that display players’ statistics.

She simply focused on her game.

“After I got pulled out the end of the third I think, one of the assistant coaches was like, ‘I want a 20-piece and I need another rebound,’ so I was like, ‘OK, I’ll do it,’” Gildon said. “I didn’t really pay attention to it and Ruthy told me not to mess up, so that was the goal tonight.”

Satou Sabally also played a big role in the game, and she helped Gildon achieve her double-double. Sabally and Gildon worked off each other when Sabally received passes inside the paint, turned, dragged Gildon’s defender away, and threw a bounce pass to Gildon just in front of the hoop for simple layups.

“I have the advantage to be really tall,” Sabally said sarcastically. “When I get into the paint I can look over my opponents and that’s why I saw Oti dive. And I know that when they trap me someone is free, so she dove and I knew she was there, so I just passed it.”

With Hebard out for an undisclosed amount of time, Gildon will have to continue to fill in the role. That does not mean that the Ducks are not in good hands.

“People forget that Oti won two state championships, was the player of the year in the state of Washington a couple years ago coming out of high school,” Graves said. “Not that we care about ratings or rankings; she was the highest-ranked recruit that Oregon’s ever had, and she’s a heck of a player.”

Follow Shawn Medow on Twitter @ShawnMedow

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Shawn Medow

Shawn Medow

Shawn is an associate sports editor and reporter for the Emerald covering football, men's basketball, women's basketball, acrobatics and tumbling, track and field/cross-country and softball. He also hosts several podcasts, including a soccer podcast, on the Emerald Podcast Network. You can contact him at [email protected] or on Twitter @ShawnMedow.