SportsWomen's Basketball

Top-10 matchup for No. 9 Oregon in store as LA schools come to town

Coming off a road sweep of the Washington schools, Oregon women’s basketball is back in Eugene for a two-game homestand against USC and UCLA. When the Ducks faced both teams in Los Angeles earlier this season, they edged both out in a pair of close games.

With Pac-12 play quickly approaching its end, the stakes are set for weekend that could potentially affect NCAA Tournament seeding.

First up, the Ducks will clash with the Trojans on Friday night. When the teams first met in January, Oregon held on to win 70-66 on the back of double-digit performances from Sabrina Ionescu, Maite Cazorla, Ruthy Hebard and Lexi Bando. Since then, the Ducks have gone 9-2, while the Trojans have gone 7-4.

In contrast to the Ducks’ young lineup, three of USC’s four top scorers are upperclassmen. The senior duo of Kristen Simon and Sadie Edwards are averaging 17.5 and 13.6 points per game, respectively. Junior Aliyah Mazyck joins them with 16.3 PPG as well. All three are shooting better than 40 percent from the field on the season. Additionally, Mazyck and Edwards both shoot around 30 percent from 3-point range.

The Trojans are also fairly strong on the boards. Simon, Mazyck and Jordan Adams average at least five rebounds per game. However, the team averages just over 13 assists per contest — a far cry from Oregon’s 19.7.

On Friday, watch for USC to try and exploit Oregon’s youth. As a team, they don’t give the ball away too much and force nearly 10 steals and 20 points off of turnovers. An experienced Trojan squad out for revenge could give the sometimes turnover-prone Ducks fits.

When the Ducks pulled off their road defeat of UCLA, the highlight of the night was Lexi Bando’s dagger of a 3-pointer near the end of regulation. At the time, the Ducks were ranked No. 9 while UCLA sat at No. 14.

Now, UCLA is ranked two spots above Oregon at No. 7, though the two teams are tied for first in the Pac-12 with Stanford.

Bando is back from an injury that saw her miss extended time. The Bruins are also riding a hot streak, having won their last 10 games.

While the Ducks played well with double-digit efforts from Cazorla, Ionescu and Hebard, the Bruins clearly struggled. While they’ve shot 42 percent from the field on the season, UCLA shot a mere 30 percent in that matchup. The Ducks also out-played the Bruins on the boards.

Bando, one of the nation’s most accurate 3-point shooters, is a big part of that. While she scored just nine points in the first matchup, her dominance from downtown forces opponents to spread themselves thin around the court. In turn, Hebard and the rest of the Ducks are able to exploit the holes she opens up and dominate the paint.

While Bando returned from injury in the Ducks’ victory over Washington State last weekend, she played just 12 minutes. While she made a trio of 3-pointers in that short time, her relative absence (she played 27 minutes in the first matchup) gives the Bruins one less variable to plan for.

With leadership of the Pac-12 on the line, it’s anyone’s game.

Follow Aaron Alter on Twitter @aaronalter95

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Aaron Alter

Aaron Alter