No. 7 Oregon gears up for visit to Colorado and Utah without Bando
Following Sunday’s victory when the No. 7 Oregon women’s basketball team ended its 14-game Civil War losing streak to the rival Oregon State Beavers, the Ducks now hit the road for games against the Colorado Buffaloes (11-8, 2-6) and Utah Utes (14-5, 5-3) this weekend.
On Wednesday, head coach Kelly Graves confirmed that the Ducks will be without Lexi Bando, who is out indefinitely with a leg injury.
When the Ducks take on the Buffaloes in Colorado Friday night at 7 p.m., Graves will see a familiar face on the opposing bench in Colorado head coach JR Payne, who is in her second season in the role.
Payne was the point guard during the first two seasons of Graves’ tenure as St. Mary’s Gaels head coach. She then began her coaching career as an assistant coach for Graves at Gonzaga for five seasons.
Last year, after losing to Oregon in the first matchup in Eugene, the Buffaloes got the best of the Ducks with a 76-66 victory in Colorado.
“As crazy as it sounds, when they beat us last year there, we took it hard but I was really happy for her. She needed that win,” Graves said. “She’s just such a great kid — I still call her kid — we talk all the time. I love JR, I truly do.”
Junior guard Alexis Robinson leads the Buffaloes in scoring with 13.3 points per game. Junior guard Kenney Leonard ranks third in the conference in assists with 5.8 per game, which leads the team.
“We have to focus on them and not think about Utah on Sunday,” Graves said.
The Ducks and Utes tip off at 11 a.m. on Sunday in Salt Lake City.. The matchup could provide an opportunity for the Pac-12 regular season title race to become clearer.
Before facing Oregon, the Utes will host Oregon State on Friday. Both teams have a 5-3 record in the Pac-12. Oregon is currently leading the conference with a 7-1 record. If Utah were to beat the Beavers on Friday, they’d have an opportunity to pull within one game of first place in the conference with a win over the Ducks.
If that’s going to happen, the Utes are going to need a big weekend from the trio of junior guard Daneesha Provo, senior forward Emily Potter and junior forward Megan Huff. Provo leads the team averaging 15.1 points per game. Potter and Provo have been efficient with their shots this season, knocking down 52.4 percent, which they tie for fifth in the conference. The Utes are leading the conference in defensive rebounds, averaging 29.8 per game.
If this game comes down to free throws, the Ducks and Utes are the top two free throw converting teams in the conference.
Oregon hasn’t won a Pac-12 championship since the 1999-2000 season. A sweep against the mountain schools will help thin the group of teams chasing the Ducks as they head toward the final month of the regular season.
Follow Zak Laster on Twitter @zlast3445
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