The Oregon women’s basketball team may have endured the most heartbreaking ending to an extremely promising regular season.
Last Tuesday, with just two regular season games left, the Ducks were sitting at 9-7, tied for 5th place in the conference with Washington and had won six of their last seven games. They had just secured the first 20-win season for the program in over ten years and were fighting tooth and nail for a spot in this year’s NCAA Tournament.
Then, disaster struck.
Oregon announced that senior All-American forward Jillian Alleyne would miss the rest of the year with an ACL injury last Friday. Alleyne leads the team in points and rebounds this season. She was recently named to the All Pac-12 Team for the third straight season.
The weekend didn’t get any better for the Ducks. In the midst of warm ups before their 65-54 loss at Cal on Friday, the Ducks also lost senior guard Jordan Loera for the year to a knee injury. They would go on to get swept over the weekend, losing to Stanford on Sunday 69-42.
“It can’t get worse, this week, than it was last week,” Graves said with a chuckle at practice on Tuesday. “We’re still recovering from the trip…We certainly didn’t handle last week’s situation very well but we hadn’t had really any time to process it but now we have and I anticipate that we’re going to be ready (for the Pac-12 Tournament).”
The Ducks now have to deal with filling a Jillian Alleyne-sized hole. Obviously, her offensive output (19 point and 13.6 board per game) was one of the best in the nation and is unlikely to be matched by any one player on this Duck team. But, her absence will allow other players to step in to attempt to fill that vacancy.
“Now that she’s (Alleyne) gone her load and what she does has to be distributed throughout all of us, I don’t think one person is going to carry that load,” senior guard Lexi Petersen said.
Over the weekend, Oti Gildon and Lauren Yearwood – both freshman reserves – saw season a high in minutes against Stanford. Overall, Yearwood, Gildon and fellow freshman Maite Cazorla combined to score 30 of Oregon’s 42 points in the game.
Head coach Kelly Graves said that may be more of an option going forward.
“We’ll see how it goes, we only have nine or ten players now so they all have to be ready at any given moment,” Graves said. “Oti and Lauren played well so I anticipate we’ll continue to play them.”
Without Alleyne on the floor, the Ducks are a very different looking offensive team as well. Many of their plays were based on post entries which resulted in kick-outs for threes, which was a strategy that was definitely working. Oregon is second in the country in three point field goal percentage.
After Sunday’s loss to Stanford, Cazorla said that despite Alleyne’s injury, the Ducks still know how to score.
“We don’t have a Jill inside, so it’s different, but we still can do different things,” Cazorla said. “The guards can attack and the posts have another chance to take a shot and work.”
Now, the Ducks may need to rely on their guards even more. Cazorla and Petersen will need to carry more of the offensive responsibility if the Ducks want to make any noise in the Pac-12 Tournament this year.
Follow Gus Morris on Twitter @JustGusMorris