The Oregon Women’s Basketball team is heading down to the Bay Area this weekend for their final road trip of the season, and a chance to clinch at least a share of the regular-season Pac-12 title.
First things first though, they will need to take care of a Cal team on Friday that is having a down season. If they can do that, a trip to Maples Pavilion is on tap for a Monday Night battle with fourth-ranked Stanford.
Keys to Beating Cal
No disrespect to Cal because they have been a solid program in the Pac-12, but they are having a massively down season in their first season since head coach Lindsay Gottlieb left the program to be an assistant for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
This has led to Cal taking some real beatings in the best conference in the country.
Don’t expect that to change much in this one. If Oregon shows up in the right mindset and is focused on Cal and not Stanford they shouldn’t have much problem beating Cal by a good amount.
The main player Oregon will have to focus its defensive gameplan around is Jaelyn Brown, who is averaging 14.4 points per game and while not having a great three-point shooting percentage, is at least a threat to score from inside and out.
They will also need to keep Cal’s leading rebounder, C.J. West off of the boards. However, that’s something that shouldn’t be a problem with the way that Ruthy Hebard played last weekend and with the way Sabrina Ionescu and Satou Sabally have been rebounding.
Overall though, this is a game that Oregon should win easily and it should be a game where the starters don’t need to play a full amount of minutes and the players at the end of the bench see some action.
Keys to Beating Stanford
This is going to be the most important game remaining on the schedule to determine the Pac-12 regular-season champion.
If Oregon wins, it now has a two-game lead and the tiebreaker over Stanford, courtesy of their 87-55 win on January 16th at Matthew Knight Arena. But if Stanford wins, the two teams become tied in the standings. Both of these scenarios are, of course, assuming Oregon takes care of business against Cal and Stanford beats Oregon State, which won’t be an easy win for the Cardinal. If Oregon State beats Stanford on Friday and Oregon beats Cal, Oregon will have the chance to eliminate Stanford from title contention.
No matter what happens Friday though, this is a big game.
Stanford will continue to not be at full strength for this one, as star freshman Haley Jones has yet to play since the team’s trip to Oregon in mid-January due to a knee injury suffered against Oregon State.
However, Kiana Williams and Lexie Hull are still able to cause plenty of problems for opposing defenses, both averaging 13 points per game, and both being capable players from the three-point line. Maya Dodson is also back for Stanford, at that has been a positive thing for them over the last two games.
Stanford has played more players in meaningful minutes throughout the season, but Oregon is going to have the three best players on the court.
Without Haley Jones, this is a game that Oregon should be able to win, but remember, last season Oregon beat the Cardinal by a similar margin in the regular season that they did earlier this season and then lost to them in the Pac-12 title game.
The health of Taylor Chavez is also going to be important in this game. Chavez played a big role in Oregon’s win over UCLA last Friday but then missed the game Sunday against USC. She missed that game due to a flare-up of the same foot injury that she had last season that kept her out of the NCAA Tournament. However, Kelly Graves said they caught it early, sitting her out was precautionary, and that it’s not a long-term injury.
Will she play this weekend? That has yet to be seen, but her being able to give it a go against Stanford will be huge, because if she can’t play it will leave Oregon with Jaz Shelley as the main guard off the bench with a likely minute increase from Holly Winterburn.
Top Photo: Chris Pietsch/Associated Press