Preview: Oregon women’s basketball prepares for the Seattle Redhawks
This time last year, 10-seed Oregon women’s basketball was preparing to play seventh-seeded Temple in Durham, North Carolina.
Fast forward to now, and the circumstances have flipped. On Friday night, the No. 2 seed Ducks will host the 15-seed Seattle Redhawks on their home court at Matthew Knight Arena.
“We’re excited to be here, no doubt about it,” Oregon head coach Kelly Graves said. “It’s a huge advantage, but it’s one we worked hard to achieve and earn.”
The hometown crowd has been a boon to the Ducks all season long. Players have frequently remarked that they feed off of the fans’ energy, and their record certainly seems to indicate so. On their way to a 16-1 record at home, the Ducks drew an average crowd of 3,896.
“It’s crazy walking in where we always walk in and having all these people here,” sophomore guard Sabrina Ionescu said in Oregon’s pre-tournament press conference on Thursday. “It definitely doesn’t feel real.”
For hometown star Lexi Bando, opening up the tournament in Eugene carries special meaning. The senior played at nearby Willamette High School, and said that the many friends and family members that have reached out to her are thrilled to be able to come support the team.
“It’s incredible,” Bando said. “We have — I think — the best crowd in the Pac-12. They’re excited. We’re excited. We love our home court.”
On paper, the Ducks are heavily favored over the Redhawks. This is March though, and it’s called March Madness for a reason – this Oregon team knows from personal experience.
“I’ve probably mentioned to them 50 times already – seeding does not matter,” Graves said. “We were the ones in the hunt last year, and now we’re the ones being hunted. We have to understand that.”
When it comes to styles of play, the Ducks and Redhawks share some common traits. Seattle’s game centers around its star guard duo of Alexis Montgomery and Kamira Sanders. Both shoot above 40 percent from the field, and above 30 percent from beyond the arc.
Across the board, the 3-ball is one of Seattle’s strengths, with five players shooting at a 30 percent clip from downtown. Forward Jacinta Beckley has been especially good from deep, and has contributed nearly five 3-pointers per game this year.
Montgomery is also stellar on the boards, and averages 10 rebound per-game. However, post play is one area in particular where Seattle is mismatched with the Ducks. The Redhawks have just two players over six feet tall on their roster. By comparison, Oregon starts Ruthy Hebard and Satou Sabally – both of whom stand at 6 feet 4 inches.
For her part, Montgomery said that she isn’t preparing to face the Ducks’ post players any differently than normal. Beckley added that boxing out whenever possible is going to be critical.
The Redhawks know that to have a shot against the Ducks, they need to play a virtually mistake-free game.
“We aren’t as big and we aren’t as strong,” Seattle head coach Suzy Barcomb said. “So we have to be fundamentally sound. We have to try getting them out of rhythm.”
The Ducks and Redhawks will face off on Friday at 4:30 in round one of the 2018 Women’s Division I NCAA Tournament.
Follow Aaron Alter on Twitter @aaronalter95
Do you appreciate independent student journalism? Emerald Media Group is a non-profit organization. Please consider a donation to support our mission.