2019 Pac-12 Women's Basketball Tournament: Looking ahead to Friday's slate of quarterfinal games
By W.G. Ramirez
LAS VEGAS -- Arizona dominated USC in the opening round of the Pac12 Women's Basketball Tournament on Thursday.
The prize for its 28-point romp? The Wildcats will face top-seeded Oregon in the quarterfinals on Friday.
In their two meetings this season, the Ducks dominated at home, 93-60 in January, and then in Tucson, 83-54 on March 1.
Yet Wildcats coach Adia Barnes is confident her troops will be up for the challenge, especially as the underdogs to the sixth-ranked team in the country.
"We know Oregon is a very good team, and we felt we played 30 minutes of good basketball against them," Barnes said. "We know they're coached very well. They have a lot of weapons. But we feel like we have some good weapons, too, so we're excited.
"When you're the underdog, you have no pressure. So you can go out and just play your game, and whatever happens, happens, because no one expects you to win. I think that for us, there's no pressure, we can go out and have fun and just play basketball."
Arizona is enjoying its best season in eight years, behind the overall play of Aari McDonald, who was named to the All-Pac-12 team and All-Defense team on Tuesday.
McDonald led an impressive offensive show by Arizona on Thursday, when the Wildcats shot 57.4 percent from the floor, were 8 of 16 from long range and outrebounded USC 41-28. They also outscored the Trojans in the paint, 40-20.
"I think we played a really good first half," Barnes said. "We came out and we were really intense; we were great defensively. We had some good offense. But I wouldn't say it's our best game."
Friday they'll need their best game against defending Pac-12 champion Oregon, which comes in with a 27-3 overall mark on the season, the league's No. 1 scoring offense, No. 4 scoring defense and the top shooting team behind the arc.
Oregon won its first ever tournament title last season, when it defeated Stanford, 77-57, in the title game.
The Ducks are led by Sabrina Ionescu, the Pac-12 Player of the Year. Ionescu was named Pac-12 Tourney Most Outstanding Player last year after averaging 21.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 7.3 assists. Ionescu is the all-time NCAA -- men's and women's -- leader with 17 career triple-doubles.
Oregon is much more than Ionescu, though, as it added Ruthy Hebard, Satou Sabally and Maite Cazorla to the All-Pac-12 list. The four selections are the most in school history.
Other Friday games -- all on Pac-12 Network and Pac-12 Now
No. 5 Arizona State (20-9) vs. No. 4 UCLA (19-11) -- The Sun Devils' top-ranked scoring defense will try to slow down UCLA's fifth-best scoring offense. The Bruins beat Arizona State in the only matchup during the regular season, a 61-59 victory in Tempe on Jan. 25.
No. 7 California (19-11) vs. No. 2 Stanford (25-4) -- The Bay Area rivals split their regular season series, with each winning on their home court. The Cardinal brings both the No. 3 scoring offense and defense into this quarterfinal game.
No. 11 Washington (10-20) vs. No. 3 Oregon State (24-6) -- The Huskies scored the only upset of the opening round, shocking Utah after Missy Peterson matched her career high with 23 points. The Beavers boast the second-best scoring offense and No. 2 scoring defense in the Pac-12.
W.G. Ramirez is a Las Vegas-based freelance reporter and the Southern Nevada correspondent for The Associated Press. Follow him on Twitter at @WillieGRamirez