Eugene, Ore. -- Oregon women's basketball's loss to Arizona State on the back end of their first Pac-12 road trip was a surprise, but a good wake up call ahead of one of the Ducks toughest stretches of the season. On a short week, the no. 6 ranked Ducks hosts no. 3 Stanford, followed by Cal and then a Civil War back-to-back against no. 8 Oregon State. Although both teams won't see no. 7 UCLA until a bit later in the year, this week will set up a great deal of things, from seedings in the Pac-12 and NCAA tournaments, to who may win the conference outright.
"We're playing for something bigger," says Oregon head coach Kelly Graves. "We're playing for seeding and a Pac-12 championship and all those kind of things play into this. A win against Stanford will certainly help. We gotta play better and right now, I don't know if we're playing nearly our best basketball so we may have to grind out some wins in the coming weeks."
Stanford, who has played only two true road games this season, will face one of the toughest road trips in college basketball themselves, seeing two Top 10 teams on their home courts in a span of four days. But with a slew of top ranked recruits, returning stars and hall of fame coach Tara Vanderveer, the Cardinal are anything but an easy out. Last season, the Ducks steamrolled the Cardinal on their home floor to the tune of 88-48, but lost to Stanford later in the Pac-12 Tournament Championship in Las Vegas.
"They're just so smart," senior guard Sabrina Ionescu explains. "And it's not even a joke or a hit at the fact that they go to Stanford. They're really smart. They know the scout religiously, they know every players strengths, every players weakness. We'll call out a play and they already know exactly what play we're gonna run."
"Coach Tara has her players very, very focused," says senior guard Minyon Moore. "They do the same thing every year and it hasn't changed. This year, their youth and how they've been able to carry themselves. They've been able to have some success and we'll see that coming in tomorrow."
Graves expects a tough game, as usual, but also understands that there are some changes to how his team operates. Maite Cazorla's reputation as a three point sharpshooter is different than Moore's ability to drive and slash in the lane. While the Ducks have improved defensively, there are still kinks to work out and get shooters more involved than they have been as of late.
"Teams are playing Minyon in different ways then they've played our guards in the past and we've tried to adjust to it," Graves mentions. "We're finding different ways, we're putting her in more ball screens and I think we just gotta get more movement. I really don't think we're clicking like we can offensively. I just see this as a work in progress. Thank Goodness we haven't played the best basketball we can yet. That's still coming."
Tip off for the matchup against Stanford is 6:00 p.m. at Matthew Knight Arena.
- The WNBA's negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement came to a head as a tentative agreement was reached between the league and the players association. Some of the details include plans to increase the top salaries to an excess of $500 thousand, a median player salary of $130 thousand, paid maternity leave, additional travel accommodations, and more. Ionescu, along with her teammates Satou Sabally and Ruthy Hebard are expected to be picked in the 2020 WNBA draft, with the former projected as the number one overall pick.
"It was awesome," says Sabrina of the news. "I woke up and was able to read that and a lot of people were sending it to me and tagging me in it. It was awesome to see the steps that they took, awesome to see the committee advocating for better life for the women that are playing. So it's inspiring and awesome to see the steps they are taking."