It’s racing day for the Bears in Eugene, and I’m really hoping there will be a way to watch this game live because there’s nothing more entertaining than watching Paul Westhead’s Ducks play basketball. Admittedly, Oregon has taken a step back this year after the graduation of Taylor Lilley and Micaela Cocks, but that hasn’t slowed their pace down in the slightest. Already this year Oregon has lost a game in which they scored 94 points! That probably won’t happen today, but the Bears have shown that they are entirely willing to run up and down the court with the Ducks.
Cal beat Oregon three times last year, including an early WNIT game in Eugene. Cal played better each time, recording a bigger margin of victory with each successive win. This group of Bears seems to match up particularly well to Westhead’s scheme because they have good speed – DeNesha Stallworth runs the floor very well for an elite inside scorer, and Layshia Clarendon and Eliza Pierre are as quick as they come. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a decent dose of Afure Jemerigbe tonight as well – I think her speed and aggression might translate well against Oregon.
Nia Jackson and Amanda Johnson are the two main scoring threats and it’s pretty much guaranteed that they will get their points. The key is to make sure they get their points in as inefficient a fashion as possible. Jackson also averages 6 assists per game, so whatever Cal can do to disrupt her game will be worthwhile. Beyond Jackson and Johnson Oregon can throw out another 7 or 8 players capable of running the floor and scoring.
There are two things that scare me about this game: 1) It’s the 2nd game in Oregon. The Ducks are the last team you want to play if you’re feeling sluggish. Hopefully the Bears didn’t expend too much energy against Oregon St., because they’ll need as much as they can muster against Oregon. The Ducks will punish indifferent and/or unenergetic defense. 2) Matt Court. Q had an article about how many fans the Oregon women are drawing because everybody wants to see Matt Court and the women’s game is an easier, inexpensive ticket. Add in such an entertaining brand of basketball and that makes for a pretty big, potentially intimidating crowd. Is it enough to swing a close game? Maybe.