One couldn’t go into tonight’s game being terribly optimistic about Oregon’s chances against a top-15 team, not after they went 1-9 against (for much of February) lesser competitors. When the Wildcats pulled out ahead by the end of the 1st quarter, you could be excused for thinking “I guess here we go again.” The feeling of déjà vu was unavoidable.
Well, the Ducks threw aside their inconsistencies and the inability to score, and played their best offensive and defensive game this season, sending the Arizona Wildcats out of MKA with a L.
Here we did not go again.
With Grace VanSlooten out for at least this weekend with an ankle injury, Taya Hanson picked up the nod for her first start of the season.
The Ducks were energized on defense for the entire 40 minutes of this game. Arizona had done its homework and it was quite clear that they wanted to take advantage of Oregon in the paint, same as just about every other team in this month of February had done prior to tonight. Kennedy Basham asserted herself in the paint from the tipoff, however, and disrupted the designs of the Wildcats offense with two blocks in the first quarter alone.
Those blocks and another block in the first quarter (a surprising block from Ahlise Hurst) forced Arizona to rely on shots from the field, and for awhile that was working for them.
After several lead changes in the first, Arizona held the lead in about the final 2 1⁄2 minutes of the period, ending with a one-point advantage, 18-19. Although the Ducks left some shots on the floor, the fact that Endyia Rogers was shooting 3-5 and Te-Hina Paopao was shooting 2-3 was encouraging. Also, Oregon was denying the Wildcats the paint - the Ducks had 12 points in the paint to four for Arizona.
In the second period, Oregon picked up the lead at the 8:07 mark off a 3-point shot from Chance Gray, taking the lead 21-19. Arizona responded by tying the game at 21-all at the 7:02 mark.
The Wildcats then suffered a scoring drought. While Oregon was not shooting lights-out, Arizona was hitting nothing and for awhile in the 2nd they were shooting around 9-11% for the quarter. The Ducks capitalized and went on a 15-4 run, gaining a double digit lead, 36-25.
Arizona finally put some buckets together at the end of the half, and improved to 26.7% shooting in the 2nd quarter. Oregon, however, shot 58.8% and went into halftime with a 10-point lead, 40-30.
Coming into the 3rd quarter, I was looking for letup from Oregon; there have been many games this season where the Ducks were looking solid at the half, only to wilt in the third or fourth quarter and earn a disappointing loss.
Here we did not go again.
Arizona’s shooting woes followed then into the third, guided by a spirited Oregon defense that would not let up. Midway in the quarter, the Ducks enjoyed what would be their largest lead of the game, up 16 at 49-33.
The Arizona defense began full court pressing Oregon very hard at this point, and while Oregon responded well, the Wildcats were still at points disruptive and closed the quarter down eight, 57-49.
Arizona would have narrowed the gap closer had it not been for a Chance Gray shot from downtown to beat the buzzer.
In the beginning of the fourth quarter, aided by the press and missed shots by the Ducks, the Wildcats started with a 6-0 run and pulled within one, 57-56.
That’s as close as the Wildcats would get. Arizona was not able to find the basket - shooting only 13.33% in the 4th, largely due to Oregon’s defensive tenacity. Meanwhile, the Ducks hit enough shots to get the job done, and chewed up the clock when they needed to, earning the 14-point upset in what is easily their best win of the season.
Oregon’s defense limited Arizona to 30.4% shooting on the game. Cate Reese lead the Wildcats scorers with 19 points, followed by 10 points from Madison Conner.
Oregon had a complete game because everyone that played registered significant contributions to the outcome. Te-Hina Paopao lead all scorers with 21 points, including shooting 5-8 from beyond the arc. Endyia Rogers brought in 18 points and Chance Gray ended with 12 points, all from beyond the arc. Phillipina Kyei just missed a double-double with nine points and 14 boards. Kennedy Basham may have scored only four points, but her shooting was 100%, and she had three blocks in the game. All of Oregon’s players ended with positive numbers in the +/- column, and all of Arizona’s players ended with negative numbers.
Paopao and Rogers also talked briefly after the game:
That the Oregon Ducks could shake off a disappointing February and dispatch a very good Arizona team is an encouraging sign that perhaps they are not out of this yet. The Ducks can’t afford any stumbles, though, and will need to play as consistently on Saturday, against the Arizona State Sun Devils, as they did tonight.
The Oregon Ducks host the ASU Wildcats on Saturday, 2/25/23, at 12:00 pm PT. The match will be televised on Pac-12 Oregon.