Eugene, Ore. -- Oregon women's basketball has enjoyed a nice run of success since returning from the desert in early January. The split series against Arizona and Arizona State cost the Ducks a sustained run with the no. 1 next to their name, but since then Oregon has played to the standard that many expected at the beginning of the year. The resounding 74-56 win over no. 4 UConn at Gampel Pavilion, the worst Husky home loss ever in the building was a warning shot to the rest of the country.
And yet, players and coaches still seem to be of the mindset that their best baskteball is still in front of them. Even in the win over UConn, star senior guard Sabrina Ionescu only scored 10 points, although the performance was buoyed by 9 rebounds and 9 assists. While the reigning Wooden Award winner rediscovers her shooting stroke, it's been the shooting of two other starters that has changed the complexion of the Ducks offense these past few weeks. Minyon Moore and Erin Boley's solid performances from beyond the arc have proven to be invaluable to keeping opposing defenses on their toes.
Moore, in particular, has worked hard through the season to be more of a perimeter threat. Earlier in the year, the guard who came to Oregon as more of an attack-the-basket type player, was being defended without much respect to her outside shooting. But since Moore's perfect performance from three point range against Cal, conference opponents have begun to pay her more mind, which has given another advantage to the Ducks.
"It's the most I've ever worked in my career by far," Moore explains. "I've been shooting, shooting, shooting in practice as much as I can so they have to honor that shot so that it helps Ruthy more I feel like, that I can shoot the outside shoot and they don't have to double her all the time."
"It's kind of funny, I think people are changing," says Graves. "People are not playing off her. Cal tried to play off her and she went 3-3 from the three point line, she hit a big one against the Beavers. She's money on that little mid range shot."
With other pieces like Moore and Boley contributing on both sides of the floor, it has made it easier for the Ducks 'Big Three' of Satou Sabally, Sabrina Ionescu and Ruthy Hebard to find their looks. Sabally specifically has enjoyed a nice resurgence in the past three weeks after going through something of a mini slump to start the month of January. Since returning from the team's first Arizona trip, the junior forward has averaged 19 points a game with a high of 31.
"I think we're a different team when she's aggressive and get on the offensive baords because she's still, she's not shooting like I know she can but we need that," Graves mentions. "We need that presence."
"He told me to be more of a playmaker," says Sabally with a laugh. "To increase my number of assists and create for the others because that's what I did before I came here and play with more aggressiveness because I am so athletic."
The Ducks will need the full strength and best performances coming up this weekend against no. 12 Arizona and guard Aari McDonald, who Graves likened to former Oregon Duck running back LaMichael James in terms of speed. Afte the Wildcats is an Arizona State team that managed to get the best of the Ducks in Tempe. With only a month left in the year, time is of the essence, and Oregon players and coaches believe the best is yet to come.