by Rob Moseley
From the depths of a four-win season a year earlier, the Oregon women's basketball team fought its way to the second round of the WNIT in 2013-14.
That didn't make the pain of defeat any easier to endure.
The Ducks lost 93-85 to Pac-12 rival Washington in Matthew Knight Arena on Monday, ending their season at 16-16. The loss brought to a close the careers of four seniors, as well as the five-year tenure of head coach Paul Westhead, whose contract was not renewed.
In a crushing similarity to the UO men's result in the NCAA Tournament against Wisconsin two days earlier, the UO women led the Huskies by 12 points at halftime Monday. Washington caught fire in the second half while the Ducks went cold, and UW advanced to the WNIT's third round.
The Huskies scored 12 straight at one point to take their first lead, 58-57, and made 15-of-16 free throws in the final two minutes to stave off Oregon's attempt to rally.
"We just didn't make shots," said Westhead, who finished 66-92 in five seasons with the program. "The stat sheet kind of helps me say that, but that was my feeling anyway. …
"I thought our kids played very hard. I think they were competitive. But at the end of the day you have to make some of them."
The stat sheet showed Oregon shooting .419 in the first half, while UW was content with a barrage of three-pointers and shot .324. After halftime, the Ducks fell to .293 while the Huskies shot 50 percent, working the ball into the post more often.
"They cut us up on the high-low pretty bad," UO senior Ariel Thomas said.
Playing her final game in an Oregon uniform, Thomas led the Ducks with 24 points and grabbed six rebounds. Fellow senior starter Danielle Love endured a tough night, missing all eight of her shots, while classmates Laura Stanulis and Chynna Miley didn't make it off the bench.
Thomas, an honorable mention all-Pac-12 selection, reached the 1,000-point mark with the Ducks on senior night, March 2.
"It was a very up-and-down four years," Thomas said. "To be a part of a season where you're the worst Oregon basketball team ever to a team that finally goes back and makes it to the postseason is pretty cool."
The next generation for UO women's basketball, sophomore Jillian Alleyne and freshman Chrishae Rowe, added 17 points apiece Monday, and Alleyne grabbed 25 rebounds. Her sixth rebound of the game gave Alleyne 500 for the season, making her just the fifth player in NCAA history to reach that mark.
Alleyne leads the nation in rebounding, and set a Pac-12 record with her 29th double-double Monday
"I don't really have words for it, except that it has been literally amazing from start to finish," Alleyne said of her sophomore campaign. "I saw our team take a huge step from where we were last year. So if I could put this season in one word, it would absolutely be 'unbelievable.'"
Some of the UO players and coaches were visibly emotional after the game, given all the transition the program is enduring.
"I commented to them (that), I thought they would be good going forward, and wished them the best," Westhead said. "I feel badly for our seniors. They played their heart out. But there's a good group of kids still here, and moving forward I think they'll be fine."
Under the "Guru of Go," Oregon set school and conference records with 93.2 points and 51.0 rebounds per game this season, and with 301 made three-pointers.
Thomas said that "how we've come together and we've bonded, on and off the court, has been amazing for me." She said she'll follow the program as a proud alum going forward.
"I'm excited for what the future holds for Oregon women's basketball," Thomas said. "Under Jill, I know she's going to get better, and Chrishae, she's going to be a seasoned sophomore. And also Lexi (Petersen), Katelyn (Loper). It's going to be really good. It's just a matter of which coaching staff gets to inherit these awesome players."