It doesn’t take much motivation to get ready to lace it up against a ranked opponent or conference rival. Beating teams that you know you’re supposed to beat; however, can have its challenges. It’s easier said than done.
That was showcased on Tuesday. While the Ducks were a bit disoriented at times, they were able to take care of business on the scoreboard as expected, defeating Eastern Washington 81-40.
“It was nice to get home, get back up on the horse again,” head coach Kelly Graves said. “We shared the ball well, we shot the ball well. It was not an easy ordeal.”
The Ducks just returned on Monday from a seven-day road trip at the Preseason WNIT, going up against two tough teams in No. 19 Texas A&M and No. 5 Louisville. It wasn’t pretty at times – Oregon turned the ball over 23 times – but were able come away with a comfortable win.
“I know it looked a little rusty in terms of turnovers…It was a long grind. Seven days, kids missed five days of class.” Graves said.
It wasn’t ideal conditions for Oregon on Tuesday, but they were able to separate themselves early to take any Eastern Washington upset in doubt. Leading 23-8 after one quarter, the Ducks did just that, going on a 15-2 run to start the second quarter.
“The good teams come out and bury teams,” Graves said.
They did that on Tuesday, and it starts with ball movement. After only recording 12 assists in Sunday’s loss to Louisville, Oregon matched that total with 3:38 left in the second quarter. Ruthy Hebard was the main beneficiary on the offensive end, finishing with 22 points on 7-of-7 shooting from the field, with senior Lexi Bando adding another 14 points. In addition to feeding the hot hands, the Ducks were able to spread the wealth as well, with 11 players scoring.
“We’re not the most athletic team, we’re not that quick,” Graves said. “We don’t have a lot of players that can make plays on their own or by themselves. We have to rely on good ball movement and passing.”
Tuesday doesn’t get an A grade. What the Ducks performance does show, is a level of maturity for a team that is still loaded with underclassman. The third quarter wasn’t pretty, in which the Ducks came out of the half and only outscored Eastern Washington 17-13. There were multiple passes throughout the night that flew over heads and out of bounds. Yet, Oregon did what the elite programs do: tough it out and come away with a big win on the scoreboard.
It won’t be long before conference opponents are giving Oregon its best punch. Maximizing these early season “blowouts” is crucial for the Ducks, who don’t want any blemishes on their resume. More importantly, these types of games allow Graves to get a look at his full roster and get to work on areas that need to be tightened up before the margin of error decreases.
Up next for the Ducks is the PK80 tournament on Saturday when the Ducks take on No. 21 Oklahoma at Matthew Knight Arena at 2:30 p.m.
Follow Cole Kundich on Twitter @CKundich