Beavers, Ducks face challenges in lead up to Civil War battles
Before their much-anticipated Civil War games on Feb. 15 and Feb. 18, the two top-10 women's basketball teams in the Willamette Valley have some serious work to do.
No. 3 Oregon and No. 7 Oregon State travel to the Bay Area this week, where No. 11 Stanford will be looking to climb back into the Pac-12 championship discussion after dropping two of its last three games and where California is looking to regain momentum after splitting with Stanford.
This will be the only time the Oregon schools play Stanford (and Cal), so a successful trip would turn next week's Civil War games into Pac-12 title deciders.
Stanford, coached by the legendary Tara VanDerveer, is chasing its first regular-season conference title since Oregon State won the first of three in a row in 2015 and ended a 17-year run for the Cardinal. Their current star is Alanna Smith, a 6-4 senior who is a candidate for national player of the year. An Australian, Smith is averaging 20.9 points and 8.1 rebounds per game while shooting 53.6 percent, including 45 percent on 3-pointers.
Cal might have an even better player in 6-4 senior Kristine Anigwe, who leads the nation in rebounding (13.8 per game) and ranks sixth in scoring (22.4). Anigwe enters Friday's game against the Ducks tied for the California career record with 2,320 points.
Close losses have dropped the Bears to seventh in the conference, but this will be the most challenging back-to-back of the season for the Ducks and Beavers — until next week.
Oregon and Oregon State each showed toughness and talent in wins over Utah, which arrived in Eugene tied for second in the Pac-12 and left Corvallis fourth after a pair of losses.
The Utes, this week ranked 17th, were in both games. They led by two late in the third quarter before the Ducks took off and won by 22. They were tied entering the fourth quarter before a 9-0 run by Oregon State.
That the Ducks beat Utah on an off night for star guard Sabrina Ionescu — and on a night when Utah's Megan Huff poured in 38 points — was particularly impressive.
The Ducks (21-1, 10-0) and the Beavers (19-3, 9-1) have thrived in key moments. This week and next the moments get even bigger.
• Ionescu and Ruthy Hebard of Oregon and Destiny Slocum of Oregon State are among the 20 players on the late-season watch list for the Wooden Award. Also on the list are Cal's Anigwe and Stanford's Smith as the Pac-12 leads all conferences with five on the list.
• Oregon State redshirt junior Tres Tinkle was named the Pac-12 men's basketball player of the week after the Beavers swept the mountain trip to Colorado and Utah for the first time. At 6-3, OSU is tied for second at the midpoint of the Pac-12 schedule and has a chance to continue its momentum against struggling Stanford and California teams this week in Corvallis. Washington (9-0, 18-4) is the class of the conference, but a second-place finish is realistic for the Beavers, who open the second round of conference games with three at Gill Coliseum.
Tinkle is second in the Pac-12 in scoring (20.8) and fifth in rebounding (8.1). Kylor Kelley, after six blocked shots at Utah, leads the nation at 3.7 blocks per game.
• That Oregon has never won a men's basketball game at Boulder, Colorado (0-8), might be hard to explain. But Saturday's 73-51 throttling of the Ducks by the Buffs is easy to explain. Oregon — which took a 13-9 (4-5 Pac-12) record into a Wednesday home game against last-place California — struggles mightily when opponents force it to play half-court offense. Sure, Colorado is a solid defensive team, but waiting for the shot clock to drop under 10 seconds and then hoping some individual can create a shot won't beat many defenses.
• David Douglas High grad Charles Jones played 17 minutes and scored five points for Utah on Saturday against visiting Oregon State. The 6-2 junior guard, who transferred to Utah this season from Southern Idaho, was 2 for 3 from the field and 1 of 2 from 3-point range after playing five minutes and missing his only shot in the Thursday game against Oregon.
• Two final-second losses in their last three games have dropped the Portland State women (15-4, 7-3) to fourth in the Big Sky. The Viks play host to Sacramento State at 7 p.m. Thursday, then play host to third-place Northern Colorado at 2 p.m. Saturday, looking to avenge a 16-point loss at Greeley. Four road games follow for PSU.
• The PSU men begin the second half of Big Sky play with games Thursday at Northern Colorado and Monday at Sacramento State. At 4-6, the Vikings are eighth in the conference. After these road games, they will play six of their remaining eight at Viking Pavilion.
• The Portland men's losing streak is at 10 following an overtime loss at Santa Clara. The young Pilots play their next three West Coast Conference games at Chiles Center, beginning with Thursday's 8 p.m. visit by second-place BYU. Loyola-Marymount visits at 7 p.m. Saturday.
• Another of the top women's basketball teams in the land will be in Portland on Saturday. WCC leader and 13th-ranked Gonzaga (20-2) visits Chiles at 4:30 p.m. to take on the Pilots (10-12).
• It was a rough weekend for Portland's Cascade Collegiate Conference men's basketball teams, as both Warner Pacific and Multnomah dropped winnable home games to Northwest Christian and Corban. The Knights and Lions are still positioned to make the eight-team conference tournament, but the margin for error is slimmer than they would like.
Warner Pacific has dropped four of five to fall into seventh at 5-9. Multnomah (4-10) was eighth after the weekend, though Northwest University had a chance to jump ahead of the Lions on Tuesday in a game against last-place Evergreen State.
The Knights and the Lions this week make challenging visits to College of Idaho and to Eastern Oregon, where Reynolds High grad Jordan May, a sophomore guard, is averaging 20.8 points (second in the CCC to Multnomah's Justin Martin's 31.4). The good news for both Portland teams is that they close the regular season with home games against Northwest and Evergreen State. Sweep those and both will earn a playoff spot.
Multnomah, seeking its first playoff spot since joining the CCC, just missed a couple of chances to solidify that goal. On Saturday, Northwest Christian rallied from an 18-point halftime deficit to beat the host Lions 114-107, who got 51 points from Martin. That followed a three-point loss on Friday to Corban in which neither team led by more than four in the second half.
• On the women's side, Warner Pacific and Multnomah are closing in on CCC playoff spots. The Knights (13-10, 9-7) are fifth with four games remaining. The Lions (10-14, 6-10) are seventh, a half-game up on Northwest Christian and Northwest after a big fourth quarter on Saturday produced an important 59-57 win over NW Christian. It was the first win for Multnomah since Jan. 4, when a one-point win at NW Christian gave the Lions their program-record ninth win of the season. The Lions had lost seven in a row before winning Saturday.
The Portland CCC women's teams travel to College of Idaho and Eastern Oregon this week before concluding league play with home games Feb. 15-16 against Northwest and Evergreen State.
• The Concordia men saw their chances of qualifying for the Great Northwest Athletic Conference tournament shrink with a pair of close losses at home to Alaska (99-94 in overtime) and Alaska Fairbanks (63-61). With eight games left, the Cavaliers were four games out of sixth place. The top six teams make the conference tournament. Concordia and Alaska share last place in the 11-team league.
Concordia is home at 7:30 p.m. Thursday against Montana State Billings.
• The Concordia women (10-10, 5-7) are one game out of the sixth-place playoff spot in the GNAC. A loss on Saturday at Northwest Nazarene came after three wins. The Cavaliers are home at 5:15 p.m. Thursday against third-place Simon Fraser and at 2 p.m. Saturday against fifth-place Western Washington.
• The Lewis & Clark basketball teams play their final home games of the season on Friday against Puget Sound (women 6 p.m., men 8 p.m.) and on Saturday against Pacific Lutheran (women 4 p.m., men 6 p.m.). Both teams are out of Northwest Conference playoff contention. The Pioneer men (7-14, 3-9) are eighth in the conference but pushed 10th-ranked Whitworth in a two-point road loss last weekend. The Pioneer women (2-19, 1-11) have lost 15 in a row.
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