It is rare for any college basketball team to lose a game and not drop in the AP Poll Top-25 rankings.
But if that team is in the top tier of the Pac-12 Conference - specifically in women’s basketball - anything is possible. This is the toughest conference in the country and was on full display Friday afternoon in Santa Cruz, California.
No. 11 Oregon put up the biggest fight No. 1 Stanford had seen all season. Both teams were a little shorthanded, but the competitive nature between these two powerhouse programs was evident.
In the end, Stanford remained undefeated on the season with a 70-63 win over Oregon. It was one of those games where one could make a case for Oregon rising in the newest AP Poll because of the effort against the best team in the country...
But despite this being Oregon’s second loss in a row, there’s one huge thing that stood out from this defeat: the Ducks sure don’t look like the 11th ranked team in the country.
And once they figure out how to close games and fight a full 40 minutes, then the outcomes might just change.
“I think we learned a lesson,” said Graves. “If we would have played this hard last week against UCLA, we win by double figures. So at least, as far as I’m concerned, we learned a lesson. Now we’ve just got to figure out how we take it to the next level and beat these teams.”
Here’s what went right:
The Ducks forced Stanford (reiterating here, the No. 1 team in the country) into 17 turnovers. That resulted in 11 Oregon points. Oregon had 12 steals and 15 second-chance points to along with 14 offensive rebounds. And finally, Oregon’s depth was on full display with the bench scoring 25 points, compared to Stanford’s 18.
That effort and energy resulted in a 33-32 halftime lead over the nation’s top-ranked team.
Here’s what needs improvement for Oregon to beat these top conference teams:
Knowing how to finish can be a big challenge for young teams. Senior Erin Boley committed a fourth foul in the third quarter and her veteran leadership was greatly missed on the court. The Cardinal outscored the Ducks 28-14 in the third quarter.
On a brighter side, that “dogfight” mentality resulted in a fabulous fourth quarter defensively, holding Stanford to just 10 points in the 10-minute period.
“Ultimately, I was really proud of my team,” said Graves following the game. “I truly was. I thought we battled these guys all the way to the end.”
The Ducks didn’t look like themselves offensively. It’s very rare that Taylor Mikesell goes 0-for-3 from three-point range. Leading the way for Oregon was freshman Sydney Parrish, who scored a career-high 14 points hitting 5-of-11 from the field.
— Taylor Mikesell (@TMikesell23) January 8, 2021
Erin Boley, Nyara Sabally or Te-Hina Paopao were held scoreless in the second quarter and the Ducks still managed a one-point lead over Stanford at halftime. That’s incredible. It shows the depth this team has and that anyone can get hot in any given game.
There’s no denying the potential of this team not just for this season, but years to come. The five freshman Graves signed in the class of 2020 are proving time in and time out why Oregon had signed the best class in the entire country.
"I think we showed today that we're capable of playing with the best," said Graves postgame. "Good portion of this game, we were the aggressors. I think we're going to be a tough out. We're going to continue to get better..."
Excited for this rematch to take place in February and this time in Eugene, Oregon at Matthew Knight Arena.
The Ducks (8-2, 6-2 Pac-12 play) will stay in the Bay Area to face the Cal Bears (0-9, 0-6 Pac-12) on Sunday, tip-off at 1 p.m. (PT) in Berkeley, California.