BERKELEY, Calif. — After dropping back-to-back games for the first time in almost two years, Oregon women’s basketball needed a confidence-boosting victory.
After leaving Palo Alto on Friday with a close loss against No. 1 Stanford and a previous home loss last week against UCLA, the Ducks made a short trip north to secure a much-needed win against California, 100 to 41.
The Ducks came into Haas Pavilion Sunday afternoon looking to prevent a three-game losing skid against a last place Golden Bears team. Oregon has not lost three games in a row since the 2016-17 season.
Cal, on the other hand, has lost five of six Pac-12 games by a margin of at least 23 points.
The last time Oregon rolled into Berkeley was last February, when the Ducks eased by with a 32-point win. Sunday’s game, however, turned out to be a worse beating than that, winning by a landslide 59 points. The Golden Bears have now lost 16 straight games with nine straight in conference play. Cal also suffered their worst loss in program history on Sunday.
“We really needed a game like this after the last two,” Oregon head coach Kelly Graves said. “When you don’t lose many games and then you lose two in a row, it makes you question who you are and what you’re doing. Our kids showed some resolve today and were really excited to get back up on the horse and play.”
The Ducks dominated both ends of the floor from the tip: they forced the Golden Bears into four turnovers in the first three minutes, 0-for-8 from three-point land for the half and 28.6% shooting from the field.
Oregon’s second unit, filled with underclassmen, propelled them on the defensive end by swiping at loose balls, tight on-ball defense and well-timed double-teams and traps.
“I just thought we were on point defensively running around, our kids were aggressive, they were causing turnovers and we got it going in transition,” Graves said. “We haven’t had a transition game like that in awhile. I know it’s been one of our focuses and I’m glad to see us put that together.”
Oregon flaunted its depth on the offensive end as well, for which the Golden Bears had no answer. Each player who entered the game made it onto the scoreboard before the second half began. The Ducks shot 60% from the floor in the first half, adding 25 bench points.
Te-Hina Paopao had another double-digit scoring game and also got her teammates involved on the offensive end, finishing with seven assists. As one of Oregon’s only true point guards, Paopao has shown improvement and learning curves with each game she plays.
“A couple of times in transition, we wanted her to probe the defense a little bit more in transition, and I thought she did that,” Graves said. “She got into the lane and then that created some open opportunities on the perimeter.”
Oregon’s Kylee Watson also impressed with a quick ten points in the second quarter, surpassing her 2.1 points per game average with ease. Watson finished the game with a career-high 12 points on 6-for-7 shooting from the floor. Her athleticism and footwork around the paint has shone and improved every game this season as Graves’ trust in her has increased.
“Kylee made a move yesterday in practice that was so impressive,” Graves said. “I could tell she was dialed in and I wanted to go with her early, and it paid off. I think she’s so aggressive and it was really good to see.”
Aside from Watson’s double-figure game, five other Oregon players ended the night in double figures — Nyara Sabally (13), Paopao (13), Taylor Chavez (13), Erin Boley (12), Taylor Mikesell (10).
With blowout wins, Oregon’s younger players have had a chance to shine and take advantage of increased minutes on the floor.
With Watson, Paopao and contributions from Oregon’s other young players, the team secured a win that they desperately needed. The Ducks will travel to Arizona State and Arizona for a desert showdown next weekend.
Follow Carly on Twitter @carlyebisuya.