Looking back at week one for each Pac-12 women’s basketball program
Week one is in the books. 10 of the league’s 12 teams are in the win column. Plenty of eyes will be on Arizona this weekend as they aim for a resume-building win over No. 22 Texas on Sunday. Let’s jump right into our first weekly team-by-team look back at the past week in the world of Pac-12 women’s basketball of the 2019-20 season.
Here’s your first look at one of several key wrinkles Minyon Moore brings to Eugene: Pushing hard in transition to get all the way to the cup.
She’ll be flanked by three of the best 3-point shooters in the country when the starting group is on the floor. And that’s only the beginning. If that initial push doesn’t generate a shot right away, the Ducks can flow into more early offense with Ruthy Hebard as the trailer.
Moore also had a nice dish setting Hebard up inside as Northeastern threw a zone at the Ducks in the first quarter. Note the challenge teams will face collapsing onto Hebard while also accounting for Sabrina Ionescu flashing to the foul line.
Hebard deftly sealed that defender off as the ball was swung back over to Moore. The player in the middle of the zone can’t creep towards Ionescu and deny that pass to Hebard. Should the other wing look to help out inside, Erin Boley lies in wait to punish them for that decision with her quick release from the corner.
Note: Taylor Chavez drew the start in the season opener with Satou Sabally set to miss Oregon’s first three games while she’s away competing in EuroBasket 2021 qualifiers.
Freshman Ashten Prechtel drew the start alongside Alyssa Jerome, Kiana Williams, DiJonai Carrington and Lexie Hull in the Cardinal’s season opener. Fran Belibi started in against San Francisco as Prechtel played 14 minutes off the bench.
That duo forces you to worry about their ability to score right on the catch before getting the chance to worry about the flurry of cuts and off-ball screening about to ensue. When Belibi faces up, she’s one dribble from the front of the rim.
Prechtel will turn, face and drill a jumper given too much of a cushion.
The latter also got into the post for a few quick scores, including a nice lefty hook, against Eastern Washington and drilled three 3-pointers in the fourth quarter.
It’s very early, but you can already see the outlines of the massive impact Prechtel can have right away as a multi-faceted scoring threat. Stanford can just as easily go to her inside or spotting up from deep. Her shooting from one of the big positions will open things up for cutters and their other post-up threats.
Oregon State (2-0)
Freshmen Kennedy Brown and Taylor Jones have started both games up front with Taya Corosdale (hamstring) sidelined.
This was a heady set-up by Pivec to get all the way to the rim as the icing on the cake against UC Irvine:
She did just enough to force that defender to think about her snaking her dribble to get back to the middle of the floor. We’re only two games in and Pivec has already posted two monster stat lines: 25 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists against the Anteaters and 18 points, 17 boards, three assists and four stocks in a 69-57 win over Pacific.
Add the Preseason WNIT semifinal and championship tip times to your schedule if you haven’t already. The Beavers host DePaul on Thursday and with a win, they’ll see the winner of Oklahoma-Missouri State on Sunday (4:30 PM ET, CBS Sports Network).
Reminders of just how quick Aari McDonald is will never get old. From early in the second quarter in a win over Santa Clara:
She beat her defender to the inside of that screener at the right slot.
Opponents probably would want to force her to her off-hand side in that action. But because she wasn’t even forced to use that screen, that big never got a shot at pushing her toward the sideline.
That burst to just blow by somebody or split two defenders creates so many advantage situations—four against three, sometimes even a five on three—for the Wildcats with the ball in the hands of their best player with a head of steam headed toward the basket.
Two fun numbers stood out from UCLA’s comfortable wins over Weber State and Loyola Marymount, both played without Japreece Dean.
The Bruins collected more than 40 percent of their own misses in both contests. They’d be thrilled to approach last season’s 42.8 percent offensive rebound rate, the third-best mark nationally per Her Hoop Stats, after graduating two of their starting forwards.
Both games were also played at a quicker pace (77.2 possessions per 40 minutes). The Bruins only eclipsed that mark once last season: Feb. 10 at Utah.
UCLA clocked in at 69.5 and 69.8 possessions per 40 minutes in the past two seasons. For reference: Northern Illinois was tied for ninth in pace nationally last season at 77.0.
If those early returns are an approximation of what we’ll be seeing, the Bruins will be setting a very high baseline with their offense as they work to make sure the defense catches up by the start of conference play.
Arizona State (2-0)
Taya Hanson is getting a chance to fill the Courtney Ekmark role this season as that versatile shooter that’ll bomb away in transition and incite some panic in the halfcourt running off screens.
Ekmark shot 32.9 percent on 6.3 3-point attempts per game last season. Don’t let that percentage fool you. It isn’t a sexy number, but opponents really cared every time they saw her getting ready to come off a screen.
She scored to the tune of 1.071 points per possession using 84 possessions coming off screens last season per Synergy Sports. 84 may not seem like a massive number. But according to the Synergy leaderboard, only seven players used more possessions off screens while scoring more efficiently, led by Jessica Kovatch of Saint Francis at 105.
ASU set Hanson up the first trip down in both games out of the same action they used to get Kianna Ibis into the post with Ekmark darting to the top of the key.
As a second layer seen in that same game against Air Force, Hanson can swing it and catch a flare screen to pop out for a triple on the wing.
The Sun Devils make for one of the Pac-12’s most compelling follows in non-conference play as we watch the backcourt rotation take form with Hanson and Iris Mbulito in year two and the addition of freshmen Eboni Walker, Sydnei Caldwell and Sara Bejedi.
Freshman Brynna Maxwell looks extremely comfortable from deep already for the Utes. The 6’0” guard got up 19 3-pointers in Utah’s first two games of the season, including one that got them within four in the final minute at Cincinnatti.
You may recognize that set as ‘Winner’, popularized by the Phoenix Mercury, who will often make that lob entry to Brittney Griner and use a screen to bring Diana Taurasi back toward the ball when they need a 3-pointer late in a game.
The Huskies dropped a heartbreaker Sunday at home against Tulane. An eight-point lead nearing the 2:00 mark wasn’t enough for UW to hold on.
Amber Melgoza shot 3-of-14 from the field and missed her five fourth-quarter shot attempts. Missy Peterson got whistled for a five-second violation looking to inbound the ball after Tulane had shaved five points off the lead.
Tulane got fouled on a shot attempt out of the ensuing baseline out of bounds look. They missed both! But after UW broke the press coming back the other way, TT Watkins missed a layup. Arsula Clark dribbled into the post and drilled a jumper in semi-transition for the Green Wave.
With the lead down to one, UW finally got Melgoza a touch and set up a double drag. Tulane defended it well, and Darcy Rees missed a tough runner with the shot clock running down.
Melgoza then got whistled for a bump pressuring out near halfcourt. Two ensuing free throws gave Tulane the lead.
UW advanced the ball and set up a lob option for Rees but hit Melgoza instead in the near-side corner, and she turned it over looking for Mai-Loni Henson rolling to the rim.
Tulane split their next pair at the line. UW could tie it on the next trip or pull ahead with a 3-pointer. Melgoza found Henson this time, and Henson converted a tough catch and finish.
Tulane used their final timeout to advance the ball with 5.0 to play. Clark stepped up again to put her team ahead for good.
Rees came awfully close to getting a fingertip on that layup attempt. Note the immediate screen for the inbounder that may have caused Rees, UW’s biggest shot-blocking presence on the floor, to pause just for a split-second before scurrying in to cover up the front of the rim.
What a finish (and a ringing endorsement for the rule to allow teams to advance the ball up the floor late in games). Hopefully from UW’s perspective, the sting of this loss will help them progress to the point where they begin closing games like this out convincingly or even flip the script for some late-game magic of their own.
Borislava Hristova has attempted 21 free throws in WSU’s first two games of the season. The redshirt senior averaged 2.2, 3.1 and 4.9 in her three full seasons to date.
WSU would love to see her maintain something closer to the current mark. The way she drew those fouls was encouraging, continuing to flash her do-everything skill set getting into the post, in isolation, attacking off a pindown, rolling to the rim and probing as a pick and roll ball handler.
‘Bobi’ did attempt seven free throws or more seven times in non-conference play last season. Continuing parades to the charity stripe will get much tougher as the competition improves.
You won’t see a shortage of people pumping up even the very bottom of the Pac-12 this season, standard practice in any league. (It’d be refreshing for a coach to come out at some point after an upset loss and open with, “Yeah, they stink. We have no business losing to them.”)
Any signs from the Cougars early on indicating they’ll be much more competitive this year would be fantastic for the rest of the league. We all win if a scorer as gifted as Hristova goes out actually getting more chances to make plays in crunch time in her final season.
Saturday’s win at home over Virginia wasn’t pretty. Both teams shot below 31 percent from the field and a combined 4-of-38 from distance.
USC did squeeze seven points out of their first three after timeouts (ATOs) of the fourth quarter, teeing up two post catches and a spread pick and roll to get heralded freshman center Angel Jackson rolling to the basket.
The results of Virginia’s six fourth-quarter ATOs: turnover, miss, miss, miss, turnover, miss.
Like ASU, USC will be important to keep an eye on after so much roster turnover. The highlight of their non-conference slate is less than two weeks away; they’ll host Chennedy Carter and No.5 Texas A&M on Nov. 23.
Redshirt senior Sara Anastasieska has used a team-high 26.2 percent of Cal’s possessions thus far and finished with 25 points on 9-of-21 shooting (5-10 3PT) Sunday against UConn. (That line was boosted by three jumpers in the closing minutes in Storrs after the Huskies had built up an 18-point lead.)
This action late in the third quarter to generate a solid look from deep almost kept them within 10 heading into the fourth.
Once Crystal Dangerfield committed to going over the top of the two baseline screeners, Chen Yue stepped in to eliminate Dangerfield’s hopes for a straight-line path toward Anastasieska in the corner.
The Golden Bears hung tough on the road into the fourth against UConn. Cal also brings plenty of intrigue as one of the league’s top early-season watches, and not just because they’re looking to find their footing in year one under Charmin Smith.
In addition to that matchup with UConn, Cal has two of the league’s most exciting non-conference matchups, both at home: Arkansas on Nov. 23 and Kentucky on Dec. 21.
Watch how Mya Hollingshed’s anticipation sets up a deep duck-in against a zone:
She was ready to seek out the middle defender in that 2-3 zone and set up shop right in the middle of the lane. She could have stood in place and still been open, but that defender would have been across the lane in time to meet her. Hollingshed wouldn’t have had much of an advantage, either.
So rather than settling for a catch near the right block not really knowing what that defender was doing, Hollingshed ate up that open space and dictated the terms of that encounter. The rim can become her friend from the middle of the floor, essentially creating an easy turn-and-shoot opportunity.
- In case you missed it, here’s last week’s ‘Around the Pac-12’: Burning questions and predictions for the 2019-20 season:
Addressing the biggest questions facing the contenders in the Pac-12, plus a few bold predictions for the 2019-20 women's college basketball season.
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