Behind a four-game preseason win streak, including an 82-74 top-ten upset of then-No. 4 Mississippi State, No. 5 Oregon women’s basketball (11-1) will open Pac-12 conference play at home hosting the Washington Huskies (0-1, 7-6) and the Washington State Cougars (1-0, 6-6) at Matthew Knight Arena this weekend.
“Mississippi State prepared us, South Dakota State, all those really good teams got us awake and ready and moving, ready for the physicality of the Pac-12,” junior forward Ruthy Hebard said to media on Thursday.
Earlier this season, Washington fell to Mississippi State, scoring just 56 points to the Bulldogs' 103. The Huskies have also lost its past 12 conference games, winning just 1-of-17 in the Pac-12 last season, taking Washington State at home.
Still, the Ducks are not undermining their physical Pac-12 opponents, who have outrebounded the Ducks in preseason play with 39.2 rebounds per game to Oregon’s 38.7.
“They’re definitely going to be quicker, so I know they’re not just going to let me sit in the block like in some of the non-conference games,” said Hebard.
Last season, Oregon swept the Washington schools in both meetings, and this season have outpaced both the Cougars and the Huskies in shooting 53.1 percent from the field, compared to Washington’s 40.8 percent, and Washington State’s 45.2 percent.
Hebard tops the Pac-12 field goal percentage rankings with 74.1 percent, followed by Satou Sabally and Maite Cazorla ranked third and fourth.
Washington’s athleticism and five-out offense will require the Ducks to not only capitalize on offense, but be tough on defense.
“They came in last year and gave us all we can handle,” said head coach Kelly Graves of the Huskies. “They’ve got a good enough team to come in here and really push us, no doubt. We’ve got to be at our best.”
Following a matchup against No. 11 Oregon State on Friday, Washington State will travel to Eugene to face their second ranked team of the weekend.
The Cougars’ redshirt junior forward Borislava Hristova was named last week’s Pac-12 Player of the Week, an honor which Oregon’s junior guard Sabrina Ionescu won the week prior. Hristova leads her team in points per game, ranking second in the Pac-12 with 23.3. Ionescu’s 20 point average ranks just behind, earning her a fourth-place ranking in the conference.
The last time the Ducks hosted the Cougars was a record-setting day for Oregon. Hebard set a school record for single-game field goal percentage going 12-for-12 from the field, earning her 1,000 career points. Her perfect game would be the first of two consecutive games to eventually give the junior the NCAA consecutive shot record with 32.
“The depth of the conference is as good as it’s ever been, so there are no ‘gimme’s’,” said Graves. “We’ve got to bring it every night in conference play.”
Oregon will play Washington on Friday at 6:00 p.m. and Washington State on Sunday at 3:00 p.m.
Follow Sierra Webster on Twitter @WebsterSierraE.