Hot Start, Gritty Finish For Ducks
EUGENE, Ore. — A hot start offensively and gritty finish defensively helped the Oregon women's basketball team bounce back from defeat with a 67-53 victory Wednesday over UCLA, a nonconference matchup the two teams agreed to after the Bruins forfeited a conference game scheduled to be played on Jan. 28.
The Ducks (17-8) made 4-of-5 three-pointers to lead 20-9 after one quarter Wednesday, three days after going 4-of-21 from three-point range in Sunday's loss to Oregon State. UCLA put together a 24-point third quarter to cut a 20-point halftime deficit in half, but the Ducks limited the Bruins to 4-of-18 shooting in the final quarter to avoid a comeback.
"A really good defensive effort, and overall a really good win — against a team that's hungry," UO coach Kelly Graves said. "They're still looking to get into the NCAA Tournament, and a win here would have helped."
How It Happened: Maddie Scherr hit a three-pointer on Oregon's second possession to open the scoring, and set the tone for a prolific first quarter by the home team. Te-Hina Paopao also hit from three as the Ducks raced out to an 8-2 lead, and then Endyia Rogers hit two three-pointers to cap a 10-0 run as the Ducks built a double-digit lead after one quarter.
"Sure makes a difference, doesn't it?" Graves asked rhetorically of the early makes from three-point range. "Sure makes a difference. … That three ball, when it goes in it really helps us."
The Ducks kept up the pressure in the second. A baby hook from Sedona Prince and another three-pointer from Scherr made it 29-13, and a three-pointer by Paopao got the lead to 34-16. Paopao then fed Nyara Sabally for the last basket of the second quarter and Oregon led 40-20 at halftime, after outrebounding the Bruins 15-4 in the second quarter.
The Bruins mustered a response in the third, when star guard Charisma Osborne scored 11 points. The rebounding advantage Oregon had in the second was flipped on its head, as UCLA had a 15-6 edge on the boards in the third, while forcing five turnovers and drawing nine fouls on the Ducks. UCLA's attempt to assert a more physical style was embodied late in the third when Sabally was the victim on an intentional foul, but the change in tone was effective in that the Bruins trailed just 54-44 entering the fourth.
That's when the Ducks mustered a response of their own. They held Osborne scoreless in the period, and Sabally had four points and five rebounds in the period. After a three-pointer got UCLA back within 10 at 61-51, Rogers got to the rim for the Ducks and made sure the Bruins got no closer.
"It always feels good making plays at the end," said Rogers, a transfer from USC, where the Bruins were the crosstown rival. "There wasn't any built-up juice for them. We knew they were probably gonna come out and have a point to prove, since we got the easy win for conference with the forfeit. We came out prepared and ready to go."
Who Stood Out: Sabally had her fourth double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds, and Rogers finished with 16 points plus three rebounds and four assists. Paopao was a huge key to the first-half efficiency, and she finished with 15 points, six rebounds, four assists and three steals.
Graves said he came into the game wanting to play 12 players, and he managed to get at least three minutes for all 12 — and he didn't wait until the game was in hand to do so. Eleven players appeared in the first half, and Phillipina Kyei made it 12 when she entered in the second. Kyei ended up playing seven minutes in the fourth quarter, blocking a shot and grabbing two rebounds while scoring a basket.
"Everybody who got in made a difference," Rogers said. "It just shows when people's names are called they're ready to step up."
What It Means: Sunday's loss to Oregon State probably put the Ducks on the outside looking in for a top-16 NCAA Tournament seed, and thus the right to host early rounds, but Wednesday got them back on track.
"We're now in a time when we want to look good and get quality wins, so we can get as high a seed as possible," Graves said. "You get one of those top four seeds (in each regional), you host, and what an advantage that is."
Up Next: The Ducks open the final home weekend of the regular season by hosting California on Friday (7 p.m., Pac-12 Network).