Pac-12 12 Things: Cal, Utah, Stanford, OSU sweep the weekend

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 13: UCLA Bruins guard Kennedy Burke (22) guards Oregon Ducks guard Sabrina Ionescu (20) during the game between the Oregon Ducks and the UCLA Bruins on January 13, 2019, at Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles, CA. (Photo by David Dennis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 13: UCLA Bruins guard Kennedy Burke (22) guards Oregon Ducks guard Sabrina Ionescu (20) during the game between the Oregon Ducks and the UCLA Bruins on January 13, 2019, at Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles, CA. (Photo by David Dennis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

We have just one week left of Pac-12 women’s basketball regular season play. Here are 12 things from Cal, Utah, Stanford and Oregon State’s wins from over the weekend and UCLA’s upset in Eugene. Next week’s column will feature awards picks and preview the conference tournament.

Cal’s best play

If the same way that you know you’re toast when Megan Gustafson catches the ball within five feet of the basket, Kristine Anigwe is going to score or get fouled given the chance at a jump ball around the rim against a vast majority of college bigs.

Cal can set that up in a few different ways. Mackenzie Forbes’ 3-point heroics on Sunday ought to embolden them to try to make it work more often with her at the 4 spot. Or, the other big on the floor can sprint into a screen just about anywhere on the floor, leaving Anigwe alone to collect those lobs and score quickly against her defender.

Not enough Iris

Arizona State’s offense cratered once again this weekend. They need to play games in the 60s (that might even be a tad generous) more often than not with the combinations they’ve leaned on most. The problem: Too many of the top teams are going to surpass that mark just fine, regardless of the level of defense they manage to play.

What’s the downside to forking over more possessions to Iris Mbulito to run more pick and roll? The other guards on their roster can’t be as crafty around the rim. They aren’t as long or as explosive. Plus, any minutes Jamie Ruden plays, if aligned with Mbulito’s, force defenses into even tougher decisions.

Anigwe facing up

The proposition for Kristine Anigwe to shoot more 3-pointers is exciting for her pro prospects, but shooting them at volume isn’t the best use of her talents to help Cal win college basketball games. (She has attempted nine after shooting 6-of-12 from deep in non-conference play.)

And unless her future coaches at the next level ask her to stand out there regularly, it may never become a core part of her game. Her face up jumpers have been pure and those might be even more promising. She’s one dribble from the rim from that range, and the spacing at the next level ought to open up more opportunities for her to work 1-on-1.

Aari finishing among (and over) the trees

Aari McDonald has been one of the most exciting finishers in college basketball. She’s shooting 53.9 percent inside the arc with the second-highest usage rate in the country (38.0) per Her Hoop Stats. If she continues to polish her 3-point stroke this offseason, teams will have even more trouble keeping her out of the lane.

Stanford’s scariest lineup

The Cardinal are at their best offensively with both Lacie and Lexie Hull on the floor with Alanna Smith, Kiana Williams and DiJonai Carrington. It puts four capable shooters and drivers—the latter perhaps even more important than the former—around Smith, who commands double teams in the paint.

When Smith sets a ball screen, opponents likely will need to switch or risk the Cardinal pinging the ball around to an open 3-point shooter.

This approach takes Stanford away from some of their base Princeton-style actions, but they need the extra wrinkle to make it easier to dump it in to Smith.

The only downside to that group is that it might be a little too small, seen in their lone meeting with Oregon. There are dozens of potential matchups to look forward to at the Pac-12 conference tournament, but I’m not afraid to say I’m rooting to see Stanford and Oregon State meet in a semifinal with another crack at Oregon at full strength.

McBryde steers Smith middle

Smith is eager to score over her left shoulder at every opportunity in the post. Arizona’s Dominique McBryde played to that tendency—she kept Smith off that left shoulder en route to two stops in the second half of Friday’s contest.

Moore, left corner triple

Kiana Moore had a great weekend from beyond the arc for the Utes, shooting 9-of-16 against Washington and Washington State. Six of those makes occurred against the Cougars; five of them came from the left corner in transition or after an offensive rebound.

Utah’s pace, without a doubt, is a weapon. They’ll be a tough out in the postseason because of their ability to get to the rim or get up 3-pointers in a hurry. Dre’una Edwards played just seven minutes Friday and did not play on Sunday.

Utah is best with all of their rotation players available, but more time for Andrea Torrens and Niyah Becker gives them more shooting and makes it easier to let their star set up shop in the paint.

Four around Huff

Good luck prepping for this.

Megan Huff’s ability to score in the paint in so many different ways—sealing her defender to create lob opportunities, driving around slower players, posting up switches and diving to the rim after setting a ball screen—forces defenses to dip deep into their bag of tricks. And as teams try to lock in more on her ability to score inside, she’ll be able to catch them off guard by stepping out or picking and popping for open 3-pointers.

UCLA and Utah are the main Pac-12 teams outside the top three that I’d want no part of this postseason.

The All-Defense shoe-in

Just go ahead and pencil Aliyah Mazyck in to earn another Pac-12 All-Defense nod. She’s missed some time due to injuries, but there’s still no question who the best perimeter defender is in this conference.

Big game Burke

The Bruins for stormed back from a 20-plus point deficit in Eugene to stun the Ruthy Hebard-less Ducks. Kennedy Burke led the way with 29 points.

The most stunning aspect of that game, even beyond the end result, was UCLA even hanging tough with Michaela Onyenwere in foul trouble and ultimately logging just 17 minutes.

Credit UCLA for playing the hand they were dealt. Oregon had ample opportunity to pull this win out, similar to their loss in Corvallis. Satou Sabally struggled from the field, shooting just 3-of-14 overall and 0-of-7 from deep.

Boley getting buckets, inside and out

Erin Boley blew Sunday’s game wide open with six second half 3-pointers. Looking back on Friday, I think eight of her 20 points against UCLA were equally encouraging to this season’s Oregon squad as well as next season’s team, which may need to call on her to do even more offensively.

She forces teams to run her off the 3-point line with such a quick release. These four buckets—drives to the rim, a back cut, a slip—can be back-breakers to opponents that manage to take away options one, two and three. They make her and the most well-rounded offensive attack in the country even less predictable, a scary thought for postseason foes.

Taking the temperature on OSU

I would be fascinated to see the results of a poll asking as many viewers/fans/media/team personnel as possible how they’d evaluate Oregon State’s season to date at this exact moment in time, even though we’re about to do it twice over the next two weeks for each of these teams.

They’re in Arizona this weekend, where they get a chance to avenge their only conference loss that can reasonably be put into the “should’ve won it” bucket. They hung tough with Oregon in Eugene in the first of the two meetings between the two teams. Yes, the Stanford loss was ugly.

But there isn’t really anything else to be overly critical of, and if they advance to day three in Las Vegas next weekend, OSU would get a shot at redemption and a possible ticket to a rubber match with the Ducks.

Previous editions of the column: Week 15 | Week 14 | Week 13 | Week 12 | Week 11 | Week 10 | Week 9 | Week 8 | Week 7 | Week 6 | Week 5 | Week 4 | Week 3 | Week 2 | Week 1

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