Ducks glum, but determined
EUGENE — It was a loss worthy of an extended mourning period.
Oregon’s path to a women’s Pac-12 regular-season championship is a lot steeper after Sunday’s 78-65 defeat to Stanford at Matthew Knight Arena.
“We’re going to put this game behind us maybe in a few hours,” sophomore guard Sabrina Ionescu said after exiting a somber locker room. “A few days actually.”
The Ducks (21-4, 10-2 Pac-12), who slipped three spots in this week’s Associated Press poll to No. 9, play four of their final six games on the road.
Oregon has back-to-back games against two ranked teams — No. 8 UCLA in the home finale on Feb. 19 and at No. 25 Arizona State on Feb. 23.
The Cardinal (16-8, 10-2) moved into a tie for first place after Brittany McPhee scored 31 of her career-high 33 points in the second half.
Stanford outscored Oregon 21-2 in points off turnovers, 27-18 on three-pointers, 36-28 in the paint and 11-0 in bench points.
But the team’s record is what eventually caught coach Kelly Graves’ eye as he examined the postgame box score at the podium.
“It’s been a great year. I look down, and we’re 21-4 and 10-2,” Graves said. “If you would have given me that back in November or December I would have said, yeah I’ll take it. We’re still in good position.”
Oregon plays at last-place Washington (7-16, 1-11) on Friday and Washington State (10-14, 3-9) on Sunday. Stanford, which has lost seven games to ranked teams this season, doesn’t have any remaining games against opponents in the poll.
The Ducks don’t make the Bay Area trip this season in the Pac-12’s unbalanced schedule.
“Unfortunately we don’t have another chance to go against them,” Graves said. “So if it does end up in a tie, I know we still have three weekends to go, they’re going to get that tiebreaker regardless of where we all finish. That’s tough.
“But I think we’ll be fine. We’ll shake it off. We’ve lost games before.”
After losing at then-No. 5 Louisville in the preseason WNIT championship game, Oregon reeled off five consecutive wins by an average margin of 35.6 points.
The Ducks won nine consecutive games, including a 6-0 start in Pac-12 play, after losing at then-No. 5 Mississippi State.
And after falling 85-79 in overtime at then-No. 18 Oregon State, Oregon played one of its best games of the season in beating the rival Beavers 75-63 and end a 14-game Civil War losing streak.
“We’ve shown the ability to bounce back,” Graves noted. “And we need to because the Washington trip is not easy.”
Oregon, which was No. 7 in the RPI on Monday, is still in position to host the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament at Matthew Knight Arena.
ESPN’s latest bracket projection has the Ducks as a No. 2 seed facing No. 15 Weber State in the same quadrant as No. 7 Rutgers and No. 10 Central Michigan.
UCLA is penciled in as a No. 3 seed, Stanford a No. 5 seed, Oregon State a No. 6 seed, Arizona State a No. 7 seed and California a No. 8 seed.
“They gave us their best game,” Ionescu said of surging Stanford, which also defeated the Beavers in Corvallis during a weekend sweep the Oregon schools. “They know their scout, they knew everything about us, everything we did, every play call, our strengths, our weaknesses.
“We had to be able to come out and take that and ride the roller coaster and we didn’t.”