We are just about to enter the month of February, which means March is right around the corner.
In college basketball terms, March Madness is approaching.
For the Oregon women’s basketball team, that also means there are only nine games left to claim another Pac-12 Championship, which would be the fourth season in a row.
So far this 2020-2021 basketball season, the Ducks have seen a little bit of everything: postponed games due to COVD-19 protocols, dominant wins, questionable losses, adversity battling through injury…
But through all that, Oregon is currently ranked No. 11 nationally and fourth in the Pac-12 conference with a 11-3 overall record and 9-3 in Pac-12 play.
Head coach Kelly Graves joined host Jordan Kent on the latest Talkin’ Ducks on NBCSNW to discuss what he has liked about the team so far this season as well as what the team needs to improve on if they want to claim another Pac-12 Championship.
One of the things Graves has liked most so far has been on the defensive end:
“Jordan, I like how we’re coming together defensively,” said Graves. “Over the last four games now, teams are averaging only 50 points a game, shooting 28% from the field and 24% from the three, so that’s getting it done. Normally with a young team and a lot of new players, the defense is the last thing to gel. So I feel good about that side of the ball.”
Defensively speaking, Graves is right. The addition of 6’7” Sedona Prince back in the rotation has sure helped on the defensive end. She registered five blocks last Sunday against the Washington Huskies.
And then, there’s the not-so-good or the greatest area of improvement: the offense.
Simply put, it just hasn’t been there lately.
At Arizona two weeks ago, Oregon put up seven points in the first quarter. When you think it couldn’t have gotten worse, it did with just five points in the third.
And then it happened again against Washington State the following week, putting up just five points in the first quarter. Luckily, that slow start didn’t result in a loss.
“Offensively, I don’t know what’s happened to us. We’ve forgotten how to make baskets from range,” said Graves chuckling. “I know we’ve got it in us. I know we can be an elite offensive team. I think it’s just one of those - you know, you were an athlete - you know it happens. It goes in cycles; it goes up and down sometimes. Sometimes it’s a confidence issue.
The reason Graves was chuckling through this part of the interview is because there are so many great shooters on this year’s Oregon team. Four players have once held a three-point average above 40%: Erin Boley, Taylor Chavez, Jaz Shelley and Taylor Mikesell.
Coming into this season, Graves laughed at the offensive firepower this team holds. Now, it’s time to reach that ceiling again.
This weekend, the Ducks hit the road to the mountain schools starting with the Utah Utes (4-9, 3-9 Pac-12) on Friday at 2 p.m. (PT) in Salt Lake City, UT.