Pac-12 12 Things: Oregon, Stanford topple three ranked foes

credit: Stanford Athletics
credit: Stanford Athletics /

This week in Pac-12 women’s basketball, Oregon handed Mississippi State their first loss of the season in Eugene and Stanford won in dominating fashion over both Baylor and Tennessee. Here’s a closer look at 12 things from those three signature matchups.

1. Oregon pick and roll machine chugs right along

You may remember a note from last week on Oregon managing just 10 points on their final 28 pick and roll possessions in their loss to Michigan State. The Ducks got a bundle of open looks in that game that just didn’t fall.

Tuesday was much different, as Mississippi State took away potential kick out looks. The two main players in the action would need to do most of the scoring.

Oregon managed 47 points on 41 pick and roll possessions (1.15 points per possession). Through Tuesday’s game, that was better than their season-to-date mark (1.071 PPP). Remember that in the non-conference, Oregon is playing some teams that they’ll run right through relatively easily.

In case that number doesn’t pop enough for you: Through Tuesday’s action, Mississippi State had allowed just 0.553 points per possession in pick and roll per Synergy Sports.

Not only did Oregon surpass their pick and roll scoring efficiency. That mark nearly doubled what the Bulldogs had been allowing, a number also drawn from a sample that includes multiple opponents that they were able to defeat handily.

2. Maite carves up MSU

Maite Cazorla did some serious damage operating in pick and roll Tuesday evening. The Ducks scored 30 points on her 19 pick and roll possessions. The main driver of that success? Getting all the way to the rim, either by rejecting the screen (three times) or beating her defender to the other side (twice).

She scored 12 points at the rim thanks to 5-of-5 shooting and a trip to the free throw line. You’ll see in many of these clips that 6’7” center Teaira McCowan is up high to defend the pick and roll. She showed with the goal of knocking the ball handler off their path as her teammate recovered.

By rejecting the screen or flat out beating her defender around it, Cazorla had an easy path to pay dirt, exploiting the biggest weaknesses to that coverage. When MSU corralled the ball handler, McCowan was able to alter shots near the rim. When guards got going in a straight line, she wasn’t going to win a foot race to the basket.

3. Ruthy on a roll

Ruthy Hebard played another pivotal role in carving up the MSU defense. Rolling quickly, or slipping, to the rim made her available as McCowan executed that show.

Hebard scored six of her seven buckets as the roller. Four of them were set up by Cazorla.

4. Timely plays from Taylor Chavez

There’s a good chance you’ll need your supporting players to come through on a night when Ionescu shoots 5-of-13 from the field. Chavez played 29 minutes, fourth most among Oregon players. She set Ionescu up for a triple, blew by her defender to earn a trip to the line, hit an open 3-pointer off an offensive rebound and beat a close out to toss in a floater before McCowan could get up to challenge it:

5. Spot the difference?

Satou Sabally and Erin Boley took just five shots combined. Boley got 12 threes up at Michigan State and made six of them. Mississippi State didn’t venture too far away from either player. Both Oregon opponents executed their defensive game plans, which had a big impact on their shot distribution.

The Spartans to a degree were at the mercy of Oregon’s spot up shooting that afternoon. The Bulldogs forced Cazorla and Ionescu to get into the lane, betting they’d essentially be able to guard those actions two-on-two.

The beauty in it all: There isn’t a right and wrong! Both teams were consistent in executing their respective plan. More importantly, they gave themselves a chance.

6. Ionescu’s perfect night at the line

The player of the year candidate made all 17 of her free throw attempts. An unsportsmanlike foul and a technical on head coach Vic Schaefer helped pad that number. But the Bulldogs also fouled her three times on jump shots—twice on pull up two-pointers and again on a spot up triple. As with the Cazorla layup line, Mississippi State probably could have prevented some of those scoring opportunities.

7. Pac-12 Player of the Week: Alanna Smith, Stanford

Smith has been on fire from deep (8-of-13 against Baylor and Tennessee). She becomes very dangerous when teams run hard to her out there. It opens the floor up for her teammates and she will see gigantic driving lanes to get all the way to the rim:

8. Career-high 33 for Carrington

DiJonai Carrington poured in 33 points on 11-of-15 shooting from all over the floor at Tennessee. The junior guard directly benefits from the hot perimeter shooting of Stanford’s bigs. She’s a smart cutter and knows how to draw contact once she’s gained an advantage.

9. How much of this Stanford shooting is real?

The mere presence of the Hull sisters helps. Lacie, who has started with Lexie out of late due to injury, hit a pair of triples in transition. Getting those looks early from somebody else on the perimeter takes some pressure off Kiana Williams. Carrington made four against the Lady Vols. She’s up to 10-of-23 after shooting 28 percent on 107 attempts last season.

Occasional splashes from Smith and the rest of the frontcourt rotation will continue to fuel their cutting game, which they need more than the other top teams in the conference. They don’t have the lead guard that can stare you down and break you down relentlessly. When they’re moving with a purpose and hitting those shots, it’s a beautiful brand of basketball to watch.

10. Everything starts at the elbow

That elbow touch is to Stanford as the pick and roll is to Oregon, Oregon State or Arizona. That player can face up and drive. The off-ball screening can lead to a basket cut or wide open three. With seemingly everybody ramping up their pick and roll game, this stuff might be even tougher for players to guard now.

Communication is just as important, but the cuts and screens can come at you even quicker. Plugging potent shooters into that equation only heightens the intensity of each action. Best of all, this year’s bunch just might have enough shooting to discourage teams from zoning them.

11. Stanford’s ‘Horns Stagger’

We saw the Cardinal run through a few different options with this quick hitter. In the Baylor game, Hull ducked around the screens before Maya Dodson set a second screen for Smith as she popped out for a three. Then at Tennessee, Carrington curled around the first screen. Smith beat the close out and found her under the rim.

12. Here comes Maya Dodson

Dodson played sparingly as her freshman season wore on. She’s the one player in their post rotation that gives them something a little bit different inside. Her arms go on forever. She’ll block a lot of shots in her career just getting close to somebody and jumping straight up.

If she continues to earn regular minutes, the one-on-one scoring should come along. That isn’t the most pressing need for this group. With so many bodies spending time spotted up around the arc, she’s a nice change of pace to spend more time around the basket. Her patience was impressive against these high-profile opponents. There are certainly more where these came from:

Previous editions of the column: Week 5 | Week 4 | Week 3 | Week 2 | Week 1