by Rob Moseley
Fittingly, the very first missed shot of Monday's matinee between Oregon and UCLA was corralled by the long arms of athletic UO sophomore Jillian Alleyne.
Fitting because, with that rebound, Alleyne became both the school and Pac-12 Conference single-season record holder. She ended the evening with 12 rebounds for the game, and 388 for the season, breaking Bev Smith's 33-year-old UO record and former Stanford post Nnemkadi Ogwumike's conference record of 376, and still with at least five games left to play this season.
The record provided a silver lining to the Ducks' latest defeat, a 103-83 setback to the Bruins that was Oregon's third straight loss.
"Despite the loss, I definitely take pride in rebounding," said Alleyne, the nation's leading rebounder with 15.7 per game entering Monday. "So to have the record and only be a sophomore is a great feeling."
Alleyne's 22nd double-double of the season left her just two shy of Smith's record in that category, and the Ducks got five three-pointers apiece from seniors Danielle Love and Ariel Thomas. But Oregon couldn't overcome a 1-of-16 night by freshman Chrishae Rowe, the Pac-12's second-leading scorer entering the day, nor a .547 shooting performance by UCLA.
The Bruins were scorching hot to start the game, making 13-of-17 shots to build a 31-11 lead midway through the first half. The Ducks (13-12, 4-10 Pac-12) fought back within single digits three different times over the remainder of the game but never got closer than nine.
"We started playing pretty well," UO coach Paul Westhead said. "But give anybody 20 and you're going to have a hard time getting back."
The Ducks were left disappointed by their third straight loss, all at home. That followed a streak of four wins in five games that seemed to signal a midseason turnaround; instead, the Ducks will need to close strong to finish with their first winning record in four years.
Despite that disappointment, the team was able to reflect on the record-setting night by Alleyne. After securing 370 rebounds as a freshman, Alleyne tied the school and conference record of 376 with 24 against USC on Friday, then broke it in the opening moments Monday.
"A lot of players, they want to go out and score," Thomas said. "But for Jill to go out and do the little things — rebound — that's huge. To fight over every ball like it's the last ball, or this is the ball we need — every single time — is a gift. And Jill has a great knack for it."
Smith set the UO record in 1980-81, when the Ducks were a member of the Northwest Basketball League. Ogwumike set the conference mark in 2009-10 for the Cardinal.
Alleyne reached 376 on Friday in 719 minutes played this season, while Smith played 1,041 minutes and Ogwumike 1,156 in their 376-rebound seasons. And Alleyne's production isn't a product of Oregon's up-tempo style — she averages 17.4 rebounds per 100 possessions, while Ogwumike averaged 14.4; records are incomplete for Smith's season, but her average was right around Ogwumike's.
"On the defensive end, she has kind of a knack to go for the miss, and she knows how to reach at the right time, and has good body composure," Westhead said. "The offense, it's just that we go usually so fast, she's going to get inside the defense. When we miss she has a good opportunity that most kids don't get if you play slow.
"That being said, getting an opportunity and getting (the rebound) are two different things. She reaps the benefits of the opportunity. She does a good job. She's a very good offensive rebounder, very good."
Alleyne had four offensive rebounds Monday, contributing to a 20-14 edge for Oregon in second-chance points. But the Bruins used the Ducks' 20 turnovers to build a 29-10 edge in points off turnovers, and made 9-of-15 three-pointers.
UCLA point guard Thea Lemberger summed up the evening when she banked in a three-pointer for a 44-26 Bruins lead, then turned toward the bench and smiled. It was that kind of night.
"They were shooting very well," Westhead said. "We were in some defenses that usually get us generated on the offensive end, but they shot it so well that we didn't get enough out of that."
Thomas said the slow UO start was carryover from Friday's 88-78 loss to USC, the Ducks' second straight defeat when they had a chance to win in the final minutes. Because of that, they were never really in Monday's game, despite Thomas' season-high 28 points.
"It can't just be one person," Alleyne said. "It can't just be Ariel saying, 'Let's go, let's go.' Other people have to step up."
They'll have the chance Friday at Washington, then Sunday at WSU, before the Ducks close out the regular season the following week at home against the Arizona schools. Ten days ago, Oregon had an outside chance to be gunning for a 20-win season and a .500 conference record down the stretch. Instead, they're looking to regain their bearings.
"It was sitting right there for us," Westhead said. "We knew it wasn't going to be easy. It wasn't like just because you're at home, here are a couple wins. But it does create a winning atmosphere you've got to take advantage of. So now we've got to go on the road."