Ducks forwards Ruthy Hebard (24) and Satou Sabally (0) sidehug during a timeout. Oregon Ducks women's basketball takes on University of Washington at Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene, Ore. on Jan. 4, 2019. (Sarah Northrop/Emerald)

Following big games for several No. 5 Oregon women’s basketball starters, the Ducks swept the Washington schools in their Pac-12 opening weekend last week. This weekend, the Ducks (13-1, 2-0) travel to Los Angeles for their second weekend of conference play and road-opener to face USC (10-4, 0-3) and UCLA (9-6, 2-1). 

“They’re both super athletic teams,” sophomore Satou Sabally said. “They can run the floor; we have to get back on transition defense.”

Oregon heads into the weekend as the top-ranked team in the Pac-12. UCLA is the No. 7 ranked team in the conference and USC sits at 11th; both LA teams are unranked in the AP Poll.

For both games, the Ducks will need offensive strength and high-caliber shooting.

“We’ve got to be really patient,” head coach Kelly Graves said. “I think the more patient we are, the better shot we’re going to get. That’s always been one of our strengths and it’s going to have to be this weekend because both teams really defend and they defend hard.”

Oregon opens its road weekend at USC, who the Ducks have bested in their last five meetings. This season, the Ducks have outshot the Trojans from the field, 52.6 percent to 41.9 percent, and beyond the arc, 40.7 percent to 33.8. The Trojans are led by starting senior Mariya Moore, team point leader from both inside and outside the 3-point line.

The last time the Ducks saw the Trojans, they were forced into double-overtime as they fought for an eventual six-point, 80-74 win for Oregon. USC graduated four Trojans last season, including Jordan Smith, Sadie Edwards and Kristen Simon who were big in USC’s late-season near upset.

Next, the Ducks face the Bruins for the first time since the 2018 Pac-12 Tournament, where the Bruins almost caught the Ducks in the semifinals of the tournament. The Ducks, who would go on to win the championship, won by just three points at 65-62.

Following back-to-back Sweet 16 appearances, a then ranked No. 9, 3-seed UCLA fought for a 2018 Elite Eight run to rival Oregon’s. Since then, UCLA has lost three seniors including elite post Monique Billings and Pac-12 assist record-holder Jordin Canada, both of whom were drafted to the WNBA in 2018.

Without Billings in the post, the Bruins will need to produce top-level center defense to counter Hebard, who leads Oregon from the field with 100 points on the season on 70.9 percent shooting.

UCLA sophomore forward Michaela Onyenwere leads the Bruins in field goal percentage, shooting 49 percent and averaging 16.3 points per game. As a team, the Bruins have shot 41.4 percent from the field and 27.3 percent from 3-point range, just short of Oregon’s 52.6 percent and 40.7 percent, respectively.

“I think it’s going to be tough for us,” Erin Boley said. “They’re going to pressure us a lot and it’s going to be a little bit of a different challenge than we’ve had so far, but we’re ready for it.”

 Oregon plays USC at 8 p.m. on Friday before facing the UCLA Bruins Sunday at 2 p.m.

Follow Sierra Webster on Twitter @WebsterSierraE

Sierra Webster is a sports reporter covering women's basketball, soccer and track and field. Find her work at www.sierrawebster.com. Contact: [email protected]

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