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PAC-12 WOMEN’S BASKETBALL

Pac-12 women's basketball notebook: Ducks getting it done on defense

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Oregon defense

Oregon's Nyara Sabally defends against Oregon State's Aleah Goodman in their meeting back in December. The Ducks have held their last four opponents to 57 or fewer points.

When you think Oregon women’s basketball the first thought that comes to mind is probably the offensive prowess the Ducks have had the past few years with the likes of Sabrina Ionescu, Ruthy Hebard and Satou Sabally leading the way.

But that has not been the case over the past couple weeks for the Ducks, who have scored more than 70 points just once in the last six games, and that was against a California team that is winless in the Pac-12 through eight games.

Instead of hanging their heads, the Ducks have gotten it done on defense to go 4-2 over that stretch. In the last four, the opposition has scored no more than 57 points (Arizona), with the Ducks limiting Washington State and Washington to 50 and 52 points, respectively, this past weekend.

“I feel like we had some really good defense happening today,” Oregon senior Lydia Giomi said after Sunday's win. “A couple of times we got on a nice run, we got into a flow. The big piece is getting connected with the people you’re on the floor with, when you’re clicking on defense that’s when you’re like alright we can make something happen in a rhythm here.”

Despite losing to Arizona (57-41) the previous week, Graves said he was pleased with the defensive effort against the Wildcats and it was the one bright spot.

“That’s four really good defensive efforts in a row and that’s going to go a long way,” Graves said after the WSU win on Friday. “We’re going to find our moxie, we’re going to get it together offensively. Right now it’s not clicking like it should, but it will, as long as we’re doing it on the defensive end.”

The three-point shooting has hurt the Ducks in the last three games as they are a combined 14 for 56 in games against Arizona, Washington State and Washington.

“I think we’re good shooters, we’ll keep shooting the ball,” Graves said. “Taylor Mikesell got good looks (Sunday). If you watched her and most of the time she’s making those shots. We need to make more, pretty simple. ...

“Offensively it’s still kind of a struggle for whatever reason. We’re just not in any kind of a flow. But we’re going to make a lot of those shots that we missed, I think, I hope. I think defensively we’ve been doing a good job, that’s been a real plus. I think we can build on that.”

Poll watch

UCLA moved up one spot to No. 5 in The Associated Press poll after its road win over then-No. 5 Stanford on Friday night. The Cardinal, who have lost back-to-back games, dropped one spot to No. 6.

Arizona comes in at No. 10 and Oregon moved up two spots to No. 11, giving the Pac-12 four teams in the top 11.

No other conference team received votes this week.

Standings

With Stanford losing two in a row, the race for the regular-season conference title has become a jumbled mess with five weeks left in the season.

Stanford and Arizona are the leaders at 9-2 with the Cardinal holding a win over the Wildcats. Oregon is a half game back at 9-3 and UCLA is 7-2 (percentage points ahead of the Ducks). The Bruins still have home games against Arizona and Oregon; they split on the road, winning at Oregon and losing at Arizona.

Washington State holds steady in fifth at 5-4 after ending a three-game slide with a 77-75 double-overtime win at Oregon State on Sunday.

Arizona State is 4-4 to stay in the top half of the standings. Colorado and USC are 4-6 followed by Utah (3-9), Oregon State (1-5), Washington (1-6) and California (0-8).

Players of the week

UCLA sophomore Charisma Osborne scored 24 points to help lead the Bruins to a win over Stanford on Friday and was named the conference’s player of the week for the second time this season and third time in her career. She also had a season-best nine rebounds.

Washington State’s Charlisse Leger-Walker earned her fifth freshman of the week honor after averaging 23 points, 6.5 rebounds and three steals a game in a split with the Oregon schools. She has scored in double figures in 12 straight games.

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Sports editor of the Corvallis Gazette-Times and Albany Democrat-Herald

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