View at the top is still the same
Ruthy Hebard returned to form, and Lexi Bando is back in the rotation.
All in all it was a pretty good weekend for Oregon, which bounced back from a devastating home loss to Stanford with an impressive road sweep of the Washington schools.
The ninth-ranked Ducks (23-4, 12-2 Pac-12) remain in a three-way tie for first place in the conference standings with No. 7 UCLA (21-4, 12-2) and No. 14 Stanford (18-8, 12-2) with four games remaining in the regular season.
Oregon hosts USC on Friday night before next Monday’s nationally-televised showdown with the preseason favorite Bruins at Matthew Knight Arena.
“It’s going to be fun,” coach Kelly Graves said Monday. “We’re going to have to play really well.”
Hebard was nearly flawless during the Ducks’ wins at Washington (76-63) and Washington State (90-79). After being held without a point in the second half of the 78-65 home loss to Stanford on Feb. 4, the sophomore forward piled up 59 points on 25-for-27 shooting (92.6 percent) during trip.
“I think it was three factors. Number one, Ruthy was really focused and did a great job of carving out space for herself to get good shots,” Graves said of Hebard, who also averaged 11.5 rebounds in the two games. “Number two, her teammates did a great job of getting her the ball, even from the post. Number three, these were great matchups for her. Neither team had a post player that could really defend her. …
“I mean, 25-of-27. I joked with the team, what’s the over-under on making 25-of-27 in the layup line?”
Bando made three three-pointers and played 12 minutes Sunday in Pullman, Wash., after missing the previous seven games with a leg injury. The senior shooting guard’s minutes will continue to be carefully monitored until she’s back at full strength.
“Oh my goodness, it was great,” Graves said of Bando’s return. “Right off the bat she showed what a difference she makes for us stretching the floor. It’s a whole different dynamic.”
True freshman forward Satou Sabally, who had struggled from the field in her two previous games, scored 17 points on 5-for-7 shooting against Washington State. Junior forward Oti Gildon averaged 9.5 points and 4.5 rebounds off the bench during the sweep.
Sabrina Ionescu didn’t have to deliver a triple-double to get Oregon back on track. Graves said the sophomore star “had a quiet weekend” by her standards, averaging 13.5 points, 6.5 assists and 5.0 rebounds.
“She didn’t assert herself as much. I think she saw it was working for other players,” Graves said. “It’s nice to know she doesn’t have to always carry us.”
The Ducks are 11th in the latest RPI, one spot below UCLA and three spots ahead of Stanford. The top 16 seeds in the women’s NCAA Tournament host first- and second-round games.
ESPN’s latest bracket projection has Oregon as a No. 2 seed in the Spokane Regional facing No. 15 Lamar, with No. 7 Oklahoma State and No. 10 Creighton meeting in the other first-round game at Matthew Knight Arena.