by Rob Moseley
As the UO women's basketball team has struggled to achieve a winning record in recent seasons, the Ducks have grown accustomed to playing as the underdog.
That won't be a luxury for Oregon this week. The Ducks will go from being hunter to hunted, as they travel north and try to complete season sweeps of Washington and Washington State.
The UO women (13-12, 4-10 Pac-12) open their road trip Friday at the Huskies (6 p.m., Pac-12 Networks). Washington will try to avenge a 101-85 loss in Eugene last month.
"I'm really excited about it," said UO sophomore Jillian Alleyne, the nation's leading rebounder and — as of Monday — the UO and Pac-12 single-season record holder. "Huge rivalry — it's time to go out there and play."
Alleyne expressed that excitement prior to Oregon's first practice of this week, on Wednesday afternoon. Her mood stood in contrast to Monday's dispiriting loss to UCLA, the Ducks' third straight after a streak of four wins in five games.
Thus are the Ducks clinging perilously to a winning record, which would be their first in four years.
"Having a winning record is great, but we need to have more wins," Alleyne said. "We're a better team than we're showing right now."
Oregon came into this year looking for that elusive .500 record, but a solid start raised the bar. And that was simply a baseline goal, Alleyne said. The more the better.
Much seemed possible two weeks ago. But then the Ducks failed to close out games against Colorado and USC, then were never really in contention Monday against the Bruins.
So in terms of goals, it's back to basics this week.
"We'd just like to play very good basketball this weekend," UO coach Paul Westhead said. "Momentum will take care of itself. …
"Go to Washington and win, then maybe you can say, 'Well my gosh, maybe this picture's a little bigger.'"
Oregon's win over Washington on Jan. 26 followed by two days a victory over WSU, the only team the Ducks beat in conference play a year earlier. The 101 points were a season-high for the UO women in Pac-12 play, and Westhead said they reviewed film this week of how well the fastbreak offense was operating that day.
"It was as good as we've had in a while, so there's no reason why we couldn't do that again," Westhead said.
Alleyne's focus entering the game is on the other end of the court.
"We need to do what we did in order to beat those teams, but step it up a little bit more, especially on the defensive end," she said.
Despite Westhead's focus on the here and now, the Ducks know their play this week in Seattle, and at home to close out the regular season against the Arizona schools a week later, will have postseason implications.
"These games are huge for us in terms of where we position ourselves for the Pac-12 Conference," Alleyne said. "We win the next four games, we put ourselves in a better position."