An inability to sustain offensive intensity has plagued the Oregon Ducks Women’s basketball squad in many of its games this season. Tonight’s game at USC was another example as Oregon bolted to a 20 - 8 lead in the first quarter but scored only 31 points in the rest of the game and fell to the Trojans 56 - 51 in LA. Oregon had beaten the Trojans 12 straight times before tonight’s loss, including a 73 - 45 blowout win in Eugene on New Years Day. Oregon’s ineffectiveness on offense for three quarters of tonight’s game is inexplicable. After the first quarter, the Ducks routinely missed open shots they had made early in the game, including numerous layups. Endyia Rogers scored 8 points in the first quarter and did not score again until 2:13 remained in the 4th quarter. Te-Hina PaoPao scored 6 points in the first quarter and only 3 for the remainder of the game. She did not score at all in the 4th quarter when the game was easily winnable for Oregon. The Ducks scored 9, 12 and 10 points in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th quarters.
Oregon shot just 17 percent (3-17) in the 4th quarter, and while they were much better in the 3rd at 50 percent they got off only 10 attempts, the fewest in any quarter. The Ducks had 8 turnovers in each half. Although there were some breakdowns as there always will be, the scoring defense was generally fine - giving up just 56 points should lead to victories over virtually any opponent. After the first stanza, virtually nothing worked for Oregon - they missed 3-pointers, 2-point jumpers, layups and even managed to miss 5 of their 10 free throws. Working the ball inside to Phillippina Kyei was also fruitless - she scored just 7 points on 3 - 8 shooting. More importantly, she bailed out USC by going just 1 - 6 from the charity stripe.
One of the unfortunate offensive hallmarks of this Ducks team is its propensity to go on very long scoring droughts. While most teams go through long periods in a game or two where they struggle to score, it’s not that common for teams at this level to do so in game after game. In tonight’s second quarter, Oregon was stuck on 22 points for 2 and a half minutes and stuck on 27 points for the last 5 minutes and eleven seconds of the quarter, until Kyei made a layup at the halftime buzzer for a 29 - 21 halftime lead for Oregon.
In the pivotal third quarter, USC got off twice as many shots - 20 - as Oregon did and also shot 50 percent from the field while going 3 - 4 from 3-point distance. Meanwhile, Oregon had six turnovers in the quarter. Oregon was stuck on 38 points for almost 6 minutes until a Grace VanSlooten free throw and later layup. In the quarter, the Trojans stormed back from an 8-point halftime deficit to take a 44 - 41 lead.
In the fourth quarter, USC scored only 12 points on 2 - 15 shooting, but Oregon refused to take advantage, continuing to miss the same shots it had missed in the previous two quarters. USC held Oregon off by going to the free throw line 11 times in the quarter and making 7. Oregon went over 6 minutes in the quarter without scoring a point.
It’s hard to know what to make of this team, which seems talented enough, on paper at least, to win a lot of games. The team has played games where it looks fantastic, including of course the blowout win over USC in early January. The scoring droughts are particularly puzzling because whatever is causing them, they infect whoever happens to be on the floor. It’s not just one player missing a bunch of shots and turning the ball over - it’s everyone who’s on the floor at the time. Oregon couldn’t even look to the bench for help against USC - Ahlise Hurst scored 5 points, ironically all in the second quarter, but no one else scored off the bench.
For the game, Rogers led Oregon with 14 points, VanSlooten had 10 and PaoPao had 9. Kyei had a great game on the boards with 15 rebounds and VanSlooten had 5. Oregon shot just 34.5 percent from the field overall and 4 - 15 from 3-point range.
The Ducks now face #18 UCLA in Los Angeles at noon on Sunday. If that first-quarter Ducks team shows up - and plays more than one quarter - it could be a pretty good game.