GIVEN THE FACT the teams combined for 338 points in their two previous meetings this season, Washington State women's basketball head coach June Daugherty probably wasn't too far out on a limb Tuesday when she told reporters the WSU-Oregon match up Thursday in Seattle is likely going to be the most exciting first-round game of the Pac-12 women's tournament.
"There's going to be a lot offense out there," Daugherty
A week ago, the Cougars eclipsed the century mark against the Ducks, beating them 108-88 in Pullman. A month earlier, in Eugene, Oregon prevailed 82-66.
The Ducks are coached Paul Westhead, the one-time Los Angeles Lakers head coach that ESPN dubbed the "Guru of Go" after he took Loyola Marymount to dizzying offensive heights. Oregon comes into the game as the 10th seed with a 15-14/6-12 record.
The Cougars are 15-15/9-9 and the No. 7 seed. Tip off Thursday is at 6 p.m. with TV coverage on the Pac-12 Network.
Daugherty said there are three keys to the Cougars coming away with the rubber game:
Ball care. "Turnovers lead to easy scoring opportunities," she said. And the Ducks know how to put the ball in the basket. They lead the conference in scoring, at 93.3 points per game – that's 15 points more per game than the second-high-scoring team, Stanford.
Rebounding. The Cougars cannot give up second- and third-chance shots, Daugherty said, noting that her team out-rebounded the Ducks by four in the Cougars' victory a week ago but were out-rebounded by 25 in the loss in Eugene in February.
Transition defense. Whether it's off a turnover or a make, the Cougars must get back down court quickly and with the proper spacing to contain the high-octane Duck offense, which features both long-distance shooters and good penetraters, Daugherty said.
Not to take anything from Oregon, Daugherty said, but one of the big differences between the first time the two teams and played and the second was that Cougar stars Lia Galdeira and Tia Presley were both dinged up at Eugene but fully healthy last week. As a result, they were "way more assertive" against the Ducks the second time around.
Despite being a three-year starter, Presley will be playing in her first Pac-12 Tournament. As a freshman she missed it with a broken foot and last season she was out with a torn ACL. "She is so excited to play in the Pac-12 Tournament," Daugherty said of the Spokane junior. So excited, in fact, that she said Presley has been imploring her mom, who now lives in New Jersey, to come out for it.
Earlier today, Presley and teammate Lia Galdeira were named to the 15-person All-Pac-12 team. Presley is sixth in the conference in scoring at 18.9 ppg and Galdeira is ninth at 17.7. In addition, Galderia is second in the conference in steals and Presley sixth.
WSU has not had a winning season in women's basketball since 1995-96. At .500 right now, they'd have to beat the Ducks on Thursday and then No. 2-seed Cal on Friday in order to assure themselves a winning record -- that is, unless the post season beckons.
Galdeira and Presley are the first Cougar teammates to earn all-conference honors in the same season in program history and it is Washington State's first all-conference selection since Tricia Lamb in 1998-99. Galdeira also received all-defensive team honorable mention for the second consecutive year.