(The Register-Guard) Exhale. Focus. Repeat.
The Oregon women's basketball team, which had lost six consecutive games to open the Pac-12 season and 10 conference games in a row dating back to last season, is eager to prove it can beat rivals besides Washington State.
The Ducks (10-8, 1-6) defeated the Cougars 82-66 on Friday night. Oregon's sweep of Washington State last season constituted the program's only Pac-12 victories.
Washington, which defeated Oregon twice during the 2012-13 regular season and ended the Ducks' miserable 4-27 campaign at the Pac-12 tournament in Seattle, will visit Matthew Knight Arena today.
"From my memory, we lost to them three times last year. It's definitely going in (to this game) with a little bit of fire," Jillian Alleyne said of her team's mind-set after scoring 21 points and grabbing 19 rebounds to lead the Ducks past Washington State. "We need to go in and show them we're not the same team we were last year."
The Huskies (10-8, 3-4) led Oregon State by eight points in the first half before losing 75-68 on Friday night in Corvallis. Kelsey Plum is averaging 19.8 points to lead Washington and she has been named the conference's freshman of the week four times this season.
The Ducks, paced by their own freshman scorer, Chrishae Rowe (21.6 ppg), are 9-2 at home this season.
"I'm confident and hopeful that we can turn it around now and win some games," Oregon coach Paul Westhead said. "How many? Hopefully, a whole bunch."
Starting point guard Ariel Thomas, who was unable to play in the last two games, is questionable with an ankle injury.
Sophomore Lexi Petersen was able to push the pace to Westhead's liking and finished with 13 points, nine turnovers, six assists, six rebounds, four fouls, two blocks and a steal in 34 active minutes against the Cougars.
Oregon was able to hold guards Lia Galdeira (18.6 ppg) and Tia Presley (19.3 ppg) to a combined 30 points on 7-for-30 shooting.
"This game was huge for us to get the monkey off our back. Now we know how to do it, how to close out close games," Petersen said. "We owe Washington a couple."
Alleyne (14.9 rpg) leads the NCAA in rebounding. Backup forward Liz Brenner has left the program to focus on sand volleyball, but Danielle Love secured a career-high 14 rebounds and reserve Megan Carpenter added four rebounds to help Oregon outrebound Washington State 59-35.
If the Ducks, who were 7-for-32 from three-point distance against the Cougars, can heat up behind the arc, they are a threat to beat anyone remaining on the schedule.
"A lot of those teams we played recently were in our hands and fell right out. So I think there were games we should have won, but we didn't," Alleyne said. "When we're in a funk it just lasts for a minute, and I think we just needed to break that. We have to start it early and not stay in this funk."
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