Now 4-0, Ducks Face Tough Tests Ahead
EUGENE, Ore. — The Oregon women's basketball team has received passing marks through four games, but the Ducks are about to face their toughest test yet.
The No. 18 Ducks improved to 4-0 on Monday night with a 66-54 win over Southern Utah before 6,128 fans in Matthew Knight Arena. Oregon next heads north to Portland, and a game Thursday against No. 8 North Carolina as part of the Phil Knight Invitational.
"I'm super excited to see what our team can do against a top-10 team," said UO junior Te-Hina Paopao, who led the Ducks with 17 points Monday. "We've just got to put a whole game together, and I know we're going to be great."
In that regard the Ducks will look to pick up their game from Monday's performance, in which they outscored the Thunderbirds 48-23 in the first and third quarters, but were outscored 31-18 in the second and fourth quarters.
"I told the team before, this is the best team we've played of the four so far," UO coach Kelly Graves said. "And it proved to be so. They played really hard, and for the first time this year we got outworked and got outrebounded. That was a little disappointing."
How It Happened: Paopao set the tone from the jump, scoring on the opening possession on her way to seven points in the first quarter. Grace VanSlooten scored on back-to-back trips as the Ducks opened up an 11-6 lead, and after Southern Utah closed within 18-15, Oregon scored the final six points of the period, four by Jennah Isai.
After shooting 11-of-16 in the opening period, the Ducks regressed to a 5-of-15 effort in the second. Phillipina Kyei had four points and four rebounds in the period, including a putback late in the half that made it 35-23.
Oregon used defense to put together a solid third quarter and outscore Southern Utah 24-8. Taya Hanson made a steal and fed Paopao on the break for a three-pointer that made it 46-29, and later Chance Gray had another steal and finished herself at the other end for a 51-31 lead. Three-pointers by Gray and Hanson and a layup by Taylor Hosendove fueled an 8-0 run to close out the period, which ended at 59-33.
That energy didn't carry over to the fourth, in which the Ducks were outscored 21-7. After VanSlooten opened the period with a bucket, the Thunderbirds used an 11-0 run to get within 61-44. The UO basket that ended the run was at least encouraging in the big picture — the Ducks have been working on providing help to VanSlooten when she's double-teamed, and when she found herself in exactly that situation in the post, Paopao called for the ball on the wing and calmly knocked down a three-pointer.
"Te-Hina played a really good game tonight," Graves said. "And it was under control the whole time. She's been doing that really for us all year. Really proud of her."
Who Stood Out: The Ducks were plus-19 with Paopao on the floor, as she scored her 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting and added four assists with no turnovers, three rebounds and two steals. Gray and VanSlooten scored 12 points apiece, while Hanson and Endyia Rogers combined for nine steals but had some trouble finishing at times.
UO coach Kelly Graves on facing the No. 8 Tar Heels after Monday's uneven performance
"We're going to have to play a lot better, there's just no question about it. A lot more intensity. These were good tune-ups going into this tournament. Now it gets real. Hopefully our kids learned a lesson.
Freshman guard Chance Gray on the schedule getting tougher in coming weeks
"I think we've been looking at it one game at a time; Te-Hina's been reminding us, just focus on the next game, don't look ahead. But now we're here, so we're ready to go."
Up Next: The Ducks face North Carolina in the Phil Knight Invitational at Chiles Center in Portland on Thursday (2 p.m., ESPNU).