By Rob Moseley
As the Oregon women’s basketball team struggled through injuries and subpar play the last three seasons, nothing encapsulated the Ducks’ frustrations better than an inability to win the Civil War.
In other series, the UO women might have faced a talent gap (Stanford, California) or a clash of systems (Arizona State). The Ducks and Oregon State seemed to be on even footing in terms of talent the last few years, but OSU brought a five-game series win streak into this season.
For two months, this looked like a different Oregon women’s program under Paul Westhead. With Jillian Alleyne continuing her ascension into all-time great status with the Ducks, and Chrishae Rowe performing as well as any freshman in the Pac-12, this finally looked like a team poised to run “The System” all the way to the postseason.
Those expectations met with a loud thud Saturday at Matthew Knight Arena. Oregon State made it six straight over the Ducks, winning 88-80 on Oregon’s home turf. The loss was the third straight for the UO women, making their 9-2 nonconference record a distant memory.
Tonight in Corvallis, the Ducks and Beavers meet again. It’s a quick turnaround. Luckily, there are a couple quick fixes Oregon can make in its effort to finally end the run of futility against coach Scott Rueck’s Beavers.
Counter the OSU press break: Entering Saturday, OSU post Ruth Hamblin averaged six points per game. Against the Ducks, she camped out time and again behind Oregon’s press defense, took a pass over the top and had wide-open layups. Hamblin finish the night with career highs of 27 points and 16 rebounds.
Clearly, Oregon had no idea what an offensive threat Hamblin could present.
“We anticipated a few things: her presence defensively, her ability to influence shots coming at her,” Westhead said. “Potentially rebounding. … I told the team, that’s on me. I lost 27 points.”
Tonight, the Ducks will have to make some adjustments to account for Hamblin. Perhaps a post defender like Danielle Love could lag behind on the fastbreak, to make sure Hamblin isn’t open for a pass after an Oregon score.
“There’s some things we can do,” Westhead said. “There’s things we should have done, even in the current scheme. We can make some adjustments, yes.”
The Ducks must be careful not to overcommit on Hamblin, however. Sydney Wiese hit seven three-pointers Saturday to keep Oregon off-balance, and has the ability to do so again if left open.
Play a complete game: As usual with Westhead, he felt Oregon’s woes Saturday could have been cured with one fix: Play faster.
Oregon led 42-41 at halftime. If the Ducks are playing at their pace, the second half should be even more one-sided. Instead, OSU improved its shooting accuracy from .415 before the break to .563 after.
“Our defensive effort waned in the second half,” Westhead said. “Therefore, (Hamblin) and others were getting more open and more relaxed. …
“A faster pace is a must for us.”
Oregon’s own shooting, a less-than-sparkling .385 in the first half, fell to .368 after halftime. The Ducks were hamstrung by Oregon State’s preferred pace, playing a halfcourt game that doesn’t suit Oregon well.
Tonight, the Ducks will try to play to their pace a full 40 minutes.
Get more balanced production: For the most part, Saturday felt like competing two-man games, with Oregon’s Alleyne and Rowe trying to match OSU’s Hamblin and Wiese. Each duo accounted for more than half its team’s scoring, and just one other player on each roster scored in double figures.
That’s not what Westhead wants to see. The Ducks have been better this season at spreading around their offense, getting at least four players in double figures seven times.
“We’re usually not a two-man game,” Westhead said. “But that didn’t work for us.”
A couple things didn’t Saturday, forcing the Ducks to make some quick fixes entering tonight’s Civil War rematch.