by Rob Moseley
What a difference a week — and two much-needed victories — can make.
On Tuesday, the Oregon women's basketball team had a weight-lifting session scheduled. The team was in such good spirits, coming off wins over Washington and WSU to end a six-game losing skid, that UO coach Paul Westhead was compelled to check the Ducks' enthusiasm a bit.
His message delivered, the UO women got down to business, preparing for this weekend's trip to face Arizona on Friday and ASU on Sunday.
"We like to have fun, but we know when we need to stop and get serious," said UO sophomore post Jillian Alleyne, the reigning national player of the week.
There was plenty of "serious" to go around just a few days earlier. Oregon had lost six straight prior to last weekend, including twice to rival Oregon State, in overtime at California and after blowing a late 13-point lead at UCLA.
But the Ducks turned it around against Washington State on Friday, and two days later beat the Huskies for their first sweep of a weekend in conference play since February 2012. Hence the good vibes Tuesday, and Westhead's need to regulate them.
"We're working hard," Westhead said a day later, prior to Wednesday's practice. "That's always a very fine balance coaches are always going through.
"You're losing and your players are down, and you have to try and pick them up and boost their spirits. And then you win and their spirits are up, and that's good. They just have to control that and say, 'OK, let's use that energy in a good way, and let's move forward.'"
The Ducks have been snake-bitten in the desert of late, having lost four of five to Arizona, including last season. The Wildcats are in the midst of a 4-15 season so far, and an 0-8 Pac-12 mark, and no doubt see a chance to get in the win column against an Oregon team that's 11-8 overall but still just 2-6 in conference.
"Working things out and playing better (last week) will help us, but we're going to have to play very well," Westhead said.
The Ducks, on the other hand, have a chance to win three straight conference games for the first time since February 2010, in Westhead's first season as head coach.
"I'm excited about it," Alleyne said. "The ball's definitely rolling in the right direction."
As of the start of Wednesday's practice, senior point guard Ariel Thomas still had not resumed full workouts with the team, Westhead said. Thomas suffered an ankle injury in Los Angeles and didn't play in either victory last week.
In Thomas' place, sophomore Lexi Petersen has handled some of the point guard duties. She played both the point and small forward in high school.
"I was more enamored with her being a wing for me, because she has great speed," Westhead said. "But she's a terrific player, and she plays the one a little differently. She gets the ball and says, 'Get out of my way, here I come.' That fits my system to a T."