No. 18 Oregon Faces First Ranked Test at PKI
EUGENE, Ore. — No. 18 Oregon will face its toughest test to date on Thanksgiving Day, as the Ducks will meet eighth-ranked North Carolina at 2 p.m. PT at the Chiles Center on the University of Portland campus as part of the Phil Knight Invitational.
Both the Ducks and Tar Heels are off to 4-0 starts this season, as Oregon picked up a 66-54 win over Southern Utah Monday night at Matthew Knight Arena. UNC, who enters the weekend with its highest ranking since the 2015 season, marks the first top-25 team UO will face this season.
On the other side of the bracket in the four-team women's field of the PK85 event are No. 5 Iowa State and Michigan State. The winners of the two semifinal matchups will meet Sunday at 4:30 p.m. PT at the Moda Center while the third-place game will take place Sunday at 10 a.m. PT at Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
No. 18 Oregon (4-0) vs. No. 8 North Carolina (4-0)
Thursday, Nov. 24 | 2 p.m. PT | Chiles Center (Portland, Ore.)
Radio: Oregon Sports Network (KUGN 98.1 FM/590 AM)
Play-by-play: Terry Jonz
Listen Online | Live Stats
A WIN WOULD...
» Be head coach Kelly Graves' 195th win at Oregon.
» Be Oregon's fifth 5-0 start under Graves and fourth in the last five seasons.
» Be the Ducks' second win over a Power 5 team this season (Northwestern).
» Be the Ducks' 209th all-time win as a top-25 team.
» Be Oregon's 25th win against a top-10 team in program history.
» Improve UO's record to 38-26 as a ranked team when playing ranked teams.
» Mark Graves' 44th victory over a ranked opponent while at Oregon.
» Give Oregon a 2-1 edge in the all-time series with North Carolina.
» Improve Oregon's record to 42-8 in the month of November under Graves.
OREGON vs. RANKED TEAMS
Eighth-ranked North Carolina will mark the first top-25 opponent on Oregon's schedule this season. Ninth-year head coach Kelly Graves owns 43 career wins against ranked teams while the Oregon head coach, the last coming on Jan. 17, 2022 with a 72-59 win over No. 9 UConn at Matthew Knight Arena. A season ago, the Ducks collected a pair of top-10 wins, including a 68-66 win over No. 7 Arizona. The Ducks have picked up 16 victories over teams in the nation's top 10 in Graves' tenure, with seven coming in the 2019-20 campaign.
Under head coach Kelly Graves, now in his ninth season, the Ducks are 41-8 in the month of November after starting the 2022-23 season at 4-0. Oregon has started 4-0 six times under Graves, and four times in the last five seasons, and seeks its fifth 5-0 start in the last nine seasons. In his eight previous season, he has gone undefeated in the month of November three times: 2-0 in 2020-21, 6-0 in 2018-19 and 6-0 in 2015-16.
In the month of November under Graves, the Ducks' offense is averaging 84.2 points per game with an average margin of victory of 23.6 points per game (allowing 60.4 points a game). In November, UO has reached the 100-points mark eight times, including this season's opener (100 vs. Northwestern).
FRESHMEN FROM THE LINE
Through four games this season, Oregon's freshman trio of Chance Gray, Jennah Isai and Grace VanSlooten is a combined 41-for-50 (82.0 percent) from the free throw line. Isai leads the team, going 16-for-18 from the stripe while Gray is 14-for-16 and VanSlooten is 11-for-16.
The trio has combined for 69.5 percent of the Ducks' free throws made (41-of-59) while Isai and Gray rank 1-2, respectively, on the team in free throw shooting percentage. In the season opener, Isai went 9-for-10 from the line, which tied for the fifth-best free throw percentage by a freshman in a single game in program history. It marked the best free throw percentage by a freshman since Chrishae Row's 92.9 percent in 2014.
SCOUTING NORTH CAROLINA
After a 4-0 start, North Carolina moved up five sports in the latest AP poll to No. 8, earning its best AP ranking since the 2015 season (also No. 8).
Alyssa Ustby paces the Tar Heels with her 15.5 points per game, while Kennedy Todd-Williams (13.8) and Deja Kelly (13.7) round out the top three scorers on UNC's roster. In total, five players average at least 10 points a game. Ustby also leads the team at 8.3 boards per game, followed closely by Anya Pools' 8.0 rebounds a contest.
The Tar Heels are allowing teams to shoot just 28.3 percent from the field while averaging 16.8 more rebounds a game than their opponents.
INSIDE THE SERIES
Thanksgiving Day's matchup will mark the third-ever meeting between Oregon and North Carolina and first since the season opener on Nov. 14, 2016. The teams have split the only two previous matchups, with each winning on each other's home floor. The Ducks came away with a 79-77 win in Chapel Hill in 2016 to knock off the then-22nd-ranked Tar Heels.
UNC has been ranked in both prior meetings while Thursday's contest will be the first time Oregon has been ranked when facing the Tar Heels. North Carolina, who reached the Sweet Sixteen a season ago, will be UO's second Power 5 opponent of the season (Northwestern) and first postseason qualifier from a year ago.
Junior guard Te-Hina Paopao has raked in the preseason honors ahead of the 2022-23 season. She was added to the John R. Wooden Award presented by Wendy's in addition to the Jersey Mike's Naismith Trophy Women's Watch List, given annually to the nation's top female collegiate player.
Earlier in the preseason, Paopao was added to the Nancy Lieberman Award watch list (nation's top point guard) while also being voted to the Pac-12's preseason team - both for the second straight season. The Oceanside, Calif., native has been an all-conference selection in each of her first two seasons in Eugene, and has career averages of 12.0 points per game, 3.6 rebounds a game and 3.8 assists per game.
Against ranked teams last season, Paopao averaged 17.6 points a game, reaching the 20-point mark in three of five contests. In total, she turned in five games with at least 20 points in 2021-22.
Through four games this season, Paopao leads all players in the country with her 15.0 assist-to-turnover ratio. She is also averaging a career-best 5.8 rebounds per game, hauling in at least six boards in three of four games this season. Paopao drained 7-of-10 field goals Monday night, the highest field goal percentage of any Duck this season, while going 3-for-3 beyond the arc.
I'D LIKE TO REPORT A THEFT
Oregon has put pressure on its opponents defensively, as the Ducks have registered double-figure steals in all four contests this season. Against Southern Utah Monday, UO racked up a season-high 15 steals, led by five from senior Taya Hanson.
At 13.0 steals per game, Oregon ranks second in the Pac-12 and 25th in the nation. In total, the Ducks are forcing 19.8 turnovers per game with an average turnover margin of 9.2.
Oregon has felt the impact of its four-member freshman class, which was ranked as the nation's second-best recruiting class by ESPNW. Grace VanSlooten, after a 20-point outing in her collegiate debut against Northwestern, was tabbed the season's first Pac-12 Freshman of the Week. She leads a trio of freshman Ducks who average double digits in scoring at 13.3 points per game while Chance Gray and Jennah Isai each average 11.0 points a contest. VanSlooten, Gray and Isai make up three of UO's top four scorers, with Te-Hina Paopao ranking second at 12.8 points.
Freshman account for 135 of Oregon's 339 points (39.8 percent) on the season and average a combined 35.9 points per game - more than any other class on the Ducks' roster.
VanSlooten also ranks second on the team with 6.3 rebounds per game while leading the Ducks with six blocks. Isai, a guard, has racked up five blocks and is tied with Phillipina Kyei for the second-most rejections.