Uptempo second round game expected for Oregon women’s basketball on Sunday night
In the fall, Oregon head coach Kelly Graves was in Minnesota recruiting and had some time to kill. Minnesota head coach Marlene Stollings provided him with an opportunity to view one of Minnesota’s practices.
As fate would have it, the Oregon Ducks and the Minnesota Golden Gophers will compete at Matthew Knight Arena on Sunday at 7:30 p.m. for the right to advance to the Sweet Sixteen.
“We actually run one of their drills that I stole from them,” Graves said. “We certainly don’t run it as well as they do.”
Knowing this now, would Stollings have allowed Graves the same access back in the fall?
“[The Minnesota players] have been giving me trouble about that since Selection Monday,” Stollings said with a laugh. “But yes I would have.”
The Gophers, who average 85.3 points per game and are the No. 3 scoring offense in the nation, will look to push the tempo against the Ducks in the game on Sunday. But the Ducks don’t shy away from scoring either, as they enter the game Sunday with the No. 9 scoring offense at 82.1 points per game.
Both teams are able to generate scoring and push the tempo in part because they utilize a four-guard starting lineup. In their 89-77 first round win over the Green Bay Phoenix, after trailing by as much as 13 in the third quarter, the Gophers outscored the Phoenix 30-17 in the fourth quarter to pull away for the victory. Junior guard Kenisha Bell led all scorers in the game with 26 points, and their four guards combined to match Green Bay’s 77-point total.
“We’re always up for a high paced game, that what we like to play,” Minnesota guard Carlie Wagner said. “If that’s the type of game it ends up being then we don’t have a problem with that at all.”
The performance from Bell has players and coaches on the Oregon team remembering matching up with a player with a similar style, Pac-12 defensive player of the year from UCLA, Jordin Canada.
“They’re clones of each other,” Graves said. “You can’t guard her with one … We’ve got to defend her by committee.”
The Ducks won all three games against the Bruins this season and held Canada to 39 percent shooting percentage in those matchups.
“We just got to get back [on defense],” Graves said. “If we make them play 5-on-5 in a half-court game, then we have a much better chance. With a team like Minnesota you can’t really rebound four people because if they get a long rebound, then off they go and you’re in trouble.”
Being in this type of second round matchup is nothing new for this Oregon team. Last season the Ducks were the 10-seed looking to knock off the host team. They did and advanced to the first Elite Eight in school history.
“[Minnesota’s] playing with nothing to lose,” Graves said. “I don’t think anybody is expecting them to win the game outside of their locker room, their fans and coaches. That’s kind of how we were last year.
“One of my favorite sayings is ‘a very good team with nothing to lose is a dangerous team — and I think Minnesota is a very dangerous team right now.”
Follow Zak Laster on Twitter @zlast3445
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