Huskies have own big weapon
There was a template for Brittany McPhee to follow last Sunday at Matthew Knight Arena.
Stanford’s senior guard scored 31 of her career-high 33 points in the second half of Oregon’s costly 78-65 home loss. McPhee finished 14-for-22 from the field, including 9-for-11 in the fourth quarter when she personally outscored the defenseless Ducks 19-11.
No. 9 Oregon should be motivated for the rematch with last-place Washington on Friday in Seattle (8 p.m., Pac-12 Networks).
After all, Amber Melgoza already tormented coach Kelly Graves’ team with a McPhee-like performance in the conference opener on Dec. 31.
During the Huskies’ 94-83 loss at Matthew Knight Arena, the sophomore guard scored a career-high 31 points, including 23 of her team’s 28 points in the fourth quarter. Melgoza, who is fourth in the Pac-12 in scoring (17.2 ppg), finished 11-for-18 from the field, including 8-for-11 in the fourth quarter.
“We let Amber Melgoza go off for 30-plus, so we have to make sure to take care of her and just continue to do what we do,” said Oregon guard Sabrina Ionescu, who is a finalist for the John R. Wooden Award. “They’re a great shooting team, they like to get out in transition, so we have to make sure to stop their guards and take care of business.”
Oregon (21-4, 10-2) is tied for first place in the Pac-12 standings with No. 17 Stanford (16-8, 10-2) and No. 8 UCLA (19-4, 10-2).
Graves said for the first time since Lexi Bando’s injury, the team’s youth showed down the stretch against the surging Cardinal. The senior shooting guard remains out indefinitely.
Stanford’s two seniors, McPhee and forward Kaylee Johnson, dominated the second half as the Ducks were outscored 46-24.
“We don’t have a 30-year history of a culture where someone like McPhee and Johnson, those kids learn from the great players of Stanford before who learned from the great players of Stanford before them and on and on and on and on,” Graves said. “We’ve got a couple of seniors, neither of whom played in that game, so we’re just kind of going through this for the first time, and it showed.”
The Huskies (7-16, 1-11) are coming off a 72-70 loss at Arizona. Washington led by 15 points in the first half, trailed by 16 points in the fourth quarter and closed the wild game on a 19-5 run.
The Ducks will have to get over their Stanford hangover and bounce back against their northern rival to remain in serious contention for the program’s first conference title since the 1999-2000 season.
“I definitely chew on a loss,” Ionescu said. “I wish it was that easy to just get past it, but it was a hard loss. We didn’t play well, and I think that’s what hurts more than just losing, the fact that we didn’t come out and play to the best of our ability.
“But at this point we have to move on and there are still so many games left and so much time to win, to lose, so many things going on, that we do have to forget about that last game.”
The missed opportunity to take a two-game lead on Stanford with possession of the tiebreaker was also still bothering Graves before Wednesday’s practice.
“We’ve got to look big picture. That was one game,” Graves said. “But it was something we were looking forward to for four years. The players get over it a little bit quicker. For us, the recruiting and everything we’ve put into finally having the kind of team that can beat Stanford at home in front of all these fans is something we’ve been building for and it didn’t happen.
“It crushes you as a coach.”
If Oregon can sweep Washington and Washington State, two of the three Pac-12 teams with overall losing records, it will set up another big opportunity when USC and UCLA visit Matthew Knight Arena the following weekend.
Follow Ryan Thorburn on Twitter @rgduckfootball . Email firstname.lastname@example.org .