Preview: Oregon women’s basketball looks to clinch Pac-12 title in Arizona series
After a pair of thrilling overtime wins against USC and UCLA, Oregon women’s basketball is headed down to the desert to conclude the regular season against the Arizona schools. The Ducks (25-4, 14-2 Pac-12) are in the driver’s seat for a potential Pac-12 title — a pair of wins would seal the deal.
While the Ducks have talked all season long about taking the season one game at a time, this weekend is a little different. With the team’s first chance for a conference title since the 1999-2000 season, there’s a tangible goal in sight for the young team.
“I think our kids realize what’s right in front of us,” head coach Kelly Graves said on Wednesday. “We’re going to be really focused and ready for that game.”
The 2017-18 season has not been kind to the Wildcats since they last faced the Ducks. Currently 11th in the Pac at 2-14, the Wildcats have won just two games since the teams last met. Since then, Arizona has struggled in just about every phase of the game.
The team is managing just 58.9 points-per-game on 37 percent percent shooting from the field, and averaging just over six fewer assists than their opponents.
It’s not all doom and gloom for the Wildcats, however. Senior guard JaLea Bennett is averaging 14.3 points and four rebounds per-game, while sophomore Lucia Alonso is shooting 42 percent from beyond the arc. Even so, they match up poorly to Oregon’s 83.8 PPG.
Despite the mismatch on paper, the Wildcats will be playing for pride on their home court, and the Ducks would do well to not overlook them.
While their brethren in the Grand Canyon State have struggled, the Sun Devils have had a reasonably solid season.
They sit at 5th place with a 10-6 record in the Pac-12, along with wins over then No. 23 Cal and No. 24 Stanford. They’ve also been excellent on their home court, with 12 wins to just one loss.
The Sun Devils are a strong team defensively, coming in at +7.0 in rebounds and +3.3 in turnovers on the season. While they only average 69 points per game, they’ve held their opponents to an just 57 points per game on aggregate.
At the forefront of the ASU effort is junior Kianna Ibis. She’s currently averaging 13.2 PPG, but it’s her consistency that makes her so dominant: Ibis shoots 47 percent from the field and 41 percent from 3-point range.
The Sun Devils have impressive depth as well, with eight players shooting the ball at a 40 percent clip. The Ducks hold the statistical edge, but ASU’s defense and home atmosphere will make for a tough matchup.
One more thing to watch closely for the Ducks will be guard Maite Cazorla’s status. After leaving Monday’s game with leg cramps before returning in overtime, Cazorla said Wednesday that she was feeling good.
Follow Aaron Alter on Twitter @aaronalter95
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