Around the Pac-12: February madness in Corvallis, table set for UCLA

PALO ALTO, CA - FEBRUARY 07: UCLA Bruins forward Michaela Onyenwere (21) steals the basketball from Stanford Cardinal forward Nadia Fingall (4) during the NCAA women's basketball game between the UCLA Bruins and the Stanford Cardinal at Maples Pavilion on February 7, 2020 in Palo Alto, CA. (Photo by Cody Glenn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
PALO ALTO, CA - FEBRUARY 07: UCLA Bruins forward Michaela Onyenwere (21) steals the basketball from Stanford Cardinal forward Nadia Fingall (4) during the NCAA women's basketball game between the UCLA Bruins and the Stanford Cardinal at Maples Pavilion on February 7, 2020 in Palo Alto, CA. (Photo by Cody Glenn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

Regular-season crown still in play for UCLA; Oregon dominates; two close calls in Corvallis

Three teams are still in the hunt for the top spot in the Pac-12 women’s basketball standings. Let’s look back on all 12 games from over the weekend, starting with UCLA’s win over Stanford and two nail-biters in Corvallis.

UCLA 79, Stanford 69

Michaela Onyenwere earned Pac-12 Player of the Week honors after powering the Bruins to a sweep of the Bay Area schools. The junior forward scored 29 points on 10-of-16 shooting on Friday. Stanford didn’t have a good matchup to throw at her, not that any team truly does.

Kiana Williams finished with eight assists and a team-high 25 points for the Cardinal. Tara VanDerveer wasn’t pleased with her team’s halfcourt offense at the break. Stanford lacked its usual pace and precision. That and scoring surges from Williams should not be mutually exclusive.

Stanford turned to a 2-3 zone in the third quarter. Per Synergy Sports, they’ve only used a zone for 60 possessions (3.5 percent of the time) all season. And remember that Sunday was the day UCLA started out hot from distance. Onyenwere accounted for all three of UCLA’s made 3-pointers on Friday! Without question, Onyenwere making those shots in the first 21 minutes of the game made Stanford’s life much more difficult. You’re worried about her blowing by even when you give her a cushion.

Without making a single 3-pointer, UCLA’s guards/wings still hit plenty of key shots in this game. Lindsey Corsaro finished a tough spinning drive over Lexie Hull. Natalie Chou drilled two turnaround jumpers out of the post. Charisma Osborne went 0-fer in the first three quarters but added three jumpers in the fourth. Chantel Horvat scored over Prechtel in the post.

Horvat tallied 14 points and 7 rebounds on Friday. She also came up big in UCLA’s second-biggest win to date. She pulled down 10 rebounds and hit two pick-and-pop 3-pointers in their January win over Arizona.

Stanford’s subpar effort on that end appeared to hurt leading scorer Lexie Hull most. They weren’t finding her on the move toward the basket, coming off screens for open jumpers or setting up backdoor cuts. The Cardinal missed some opportunities to attack UCLA’s switching. Ashten Prechtel, Nadia Fingall and Fran Belibi had matchups worth attacking when the Bruins downsized.

Cori Close took a timeout after Stanford had taken a one-point lead in the middle of the third quarter. Onyenwere poked away a lazy Williams elbow entry intended for Fingall and took it the other way for a score. The Bruins ended the third with a 6-0 spurt. Stanford went scoreless on their final seven possessions, turning it over five times.

The Cardinal’s first possession on the fourth illustrated the overall lack of offensive urgency and clarity.

They didn’t know what they were running and lazed into two pick and roll options (one of Fingall or Prechtel should have popped for an easy jumper) for Williams, leading to a contested pull-up jumper late in the clock. All nine players other than Williams were below the foul line as the ball came off the rim. Onyenwere jogged into a runout layup.

Prechtel scored on the ensuing possession. Onyenwere came right back to convert a three-point play over Prechtel. Bruins by eight. Just as the Cardinal clawed their way back into the game, they allowed it to slip away once again.

Belibi had a chance to post Kiara Jefferson up after an offensive rebound. Moments later, they missed Prechtel ducking in on Osborne, much to the dismay of their bench.

Posting up isn’t the only avenue. Stanford finished plus-nine on the offensive glass. You can use your eyes or a pass fake to move the defense as you consider that option before skipping it to the other side, giving somebody else a chance to catch and shoot or attack a closeout. This game could serve as the swift reminder they needed to know what do to next time.

Williams shot just 5-of-15 on two-pointers. She forced some contested shots up around the basket five different times with a Hull twin standing all alone in a corner ready to fire away, including two trips in the fourth quarter as they trailed by six.

I don’t see any reason to sound any alarms over Prechtel’s 5-for-17 shooting line (0-6 3PT). She grades out just fine if she makes her bunnies and at least one of those 3-pointers. A deep tournament run may require that kind of scoring role for her, though, with one possible closing 3-4-5 trio still in street clothes.

Arizona State 62, Oregon State 64

What an ending. We’ll touch on that later if you haven’t caught up elsewhere. Could this go down as the one extra notch on the resume that could have pushed ASU into the conversation to host?

The Sun Devils missed starting guard Kiara Russell (hip) for both games in Oregon. That didn’t keep them from jumping out to a 15-4 lead thanks to a nice set piece against OSU’s 2-3 zone. Screening the outside guard and sealing the middle defender left the opposite wing to choose between Sara Bejedi and Jamie Ruden. Ruden drilled a catch-and-shoot jumper, and Bejedi followed with a 3-pointer.

Unfortunately, Kennedy Brown went down moments later with an apparent knee injury and did not return. She’ll miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL, meaning the Beavers have now lost two starting-caliber power forwards to season-ending injuries.

Charlie Turner Thorne noted in her halftime interview that she didn’t want her team playing ‘behind’ Taylor Jones. Given the chance to play one-on-one, the freshman scored over Ja’Tavia Tapley in the first then added a bucket with each hand over Ruden in the second.

Mikayla Pivec and Destiny Slocum capitalized by cruising in for layups. Jones’ defender was too busy leaning on her to also step in front to wall off the drive. Pivec struck again ‘driving the front’ to give OSU their biggest(!) lead of the game with less than 3:00 remaining.

Aleah Goodman really keyed the comeback with a personal 8-0 run. Taya Hanson, Russell’s replacement in the starting lineup, ignored Goodman as the inbounder to deny passes into the lane. Goodman threw it in to Pivec and stepped right into an open corner triple. ASU failed to find Goodman in transition as she splashed another trey. Then she traffic-coned Hanson in transition for a layup.

Pivec, Slocum and Goodman scored on back-to-back-to-back possessions and each got a turn on the ensuing three: Goodman turnover, Pivec airball and a Slocum quick two to tie after opting to play for a stop with nearly a 15-second differential.

OSU defended ASU’s next possession well all things considered. Pivec was ready for the ‘Hammer’ action looking to spring Ruden for a corner triple. Jones sunk back in the lane to help Slocum bottle up Reili Richardson’s drive. Kat Tudor defended an action she has scored out of plenty in her career chasing Robbi Ryan over a screen coming toward the near-side wing. That left Tapley room to step into a midrange jumper.

It’s hardly her forte, but that didn’t matter. She made the one ASU needed as the other options dried up.

And as you’ve probably seen by now, the Beavers countered with a beautiful set coming out of a timeout to tie it. (Think of this moment if you ever wonder why coaches save their timeouts. Scott Rueck was able to advance the ball with 3.1 seconds remaining.)

Slocum gets the ball rolling curling around a screen from Madison Washington then promptly returns the favor. Tudor was clearly the No. 1 option, and she timed her move perfectly as Washington received the inbound. Pivec was initially in a position to screen for Tudor on either side. Tudor had enough room to shake loose for a three or make more of a basket cut.

Ryan got caught ball-watching and was unable to alert Jade Van Hyfte or execute what would have been an easy switch. (That will rear its head again later.) Tapley, ASU’s biggest defender on the floor, is too far away to protect the basket, and Slocum’s clearout does just enough to get Richardson’s momentum going in the opposite direction.

It got much, much worse from there for the Sun Devils. Van Hyfte threw the ball away, possibly thinking the clock had already run out. She did appear to make eye contact with Richardson for a moment. It’s easy to see why Van Hyfte was ready to throw it in right away. With 0.1 seconds on the clock, ASU didn’t have time for a catch and a heave, and they were already out of timeouts.

Shake that bucket off, get back to the huddle and regroup for overtime.

But no one on either team touched that inbound. Oregon State ball. After review, the officials determined that there were 0.4 seconds remaining. Tudor set the screen for Pivec this time.

Iris Mbulito did her best to leave the inbounder and follow that pass. But again, you have to wonder why Ryan and Van Hyfte weren’t prepared to switch every screen at that juncture. A catch and shoot is the only possibility you’re worried about, not somebody getting posted up or dusted off the dribble.

This one’s gonna sting. It should. Good on OSU, namely those four veteran guards, for making big plays late to give them a chance.

Arizona 65, OSU 58 (OT)

Let’s not overlook the Brown injury right off the bat. Arizona is an extremely tough opponent to prepare for in one day after losing a starter to injury. OSU will have to adjust over these next few weeks to a Brown-less roster as they allot more minutes to combinations they haven’t leaned on as much to date. Washington started at the 4 on Sunday.

I believe Dominique McBryde’s scoring (19 points on 7-of-10 shooting) was the deciding factor in this game. Arizona went to her and she scored three times from the left side of the floor over Pivec late in the first. McBryde added a turnaround jumper moments later over Janessa Thropay. The senior forward added a 3-pointer over OSU’s zone and another bucket in the post against Washington.

Slocum had a fantastic stretch in the first half setting Goodman and Pivec up for 3-pointers plus an and-one finish over Cate Reese after a slick spin move to get by Aari McDonald.

Good luck limiting OSU’s good looks if you’re sticking in a man-to-man defense against their four-guard lineup. Look at the amount of ground McDonald has to cover as she straddles the line between Pivec and Goodman.

Both sides got bogged down with foul trouble. Reese, Amari Carter and Taylor Jones sat with two fouls in the first half. Reese, Jones and Pivec each picked up their third and headed to the bench, all in the first three minutes of the period! Reese and Jones managed to finish the game after picking up a fourth in the fourth.

More good stuff from OSU: Look at all the room they’re able to create to drop a lob in to Jones.

They appeared to have Jones again for a go-ahead bucket on the next trip. They didn’t throw it in and the possession fizzled out.

OSU had the same idea to start the extra period. McBryde snuffed it out.

Neither team found a real offensive flow late in this game. But Sam Thomas saved her lone field goal of the weekend for just the right time. A 3-pointer from the right wing put the Wildcats up by five.

Thomas passed up a shot from the same spot earlier in the game. And who set it up? None other than McBryde, who hit a 3-pointer from the right corner in the first half. That’s a know-your-personnel situation. You can live with closing short to McBryde and forcing a semi-contested triple.

OSU had a chance to tie it with a 3-pointer with 22.5 seconds remaining. They turned to the same under-out play they ran late in the Stanford game. Watch how Thomas, then McBryde, then McDonald switch out onto Tudor, Goodman, then Tudor again coming off those screens to be sure the Beavers wouldn’t get an open catch-and-shoot look for one of their best shooters to tie the game.

Colorado 59, Washington State 69

Colorado led by 15 at halftime. What happened?

First, Chanelle Molina seized control of the game attacking the seams of Colorado’s zone for a layup, two floaters (one three-point play) and one trip to the foul line. CU gifted her another pair of free throws running her over as she caught the ball 35 feet from the basket with WSU in the bonus.

Seeing her score 11 of her 27 points in that fashion has to be frustrating for CU because one big selling point for a zone is how it sets you up to get multiple sets of eyes on a star at all times so you can meet their drives with a second body and wall them off completely. That didn’t happen.

Second, with CU clinging to a one-point lead with less than 3:00 to play, WSU scored on four straight possessions via four catch-and-shoot jumpers for Molina and Borislava Hristova. Both of those #BobiBuckets were set up by Johanna Muzet. WSU did a nice job of screening the two outermost defenders to free Molina for a triple, too.

Total damage: 11 points in four possessions, turning that one-point deficit into a seven-point lead. Molina and Muzet shot 5-of-6 to ice it at the line as CU played the foul game.

USC 75, Cal 67

Angel Jackson tallied a season-high 19 points in 24 minutes off the bench. She had the midrange jumper working and scored a key bucket inside with her off-hand to put USC back up by six with 4:21 remaining. Fellow freshman Alyson Miura added to the lead moments later with a quick 3-pointer as Cal failed to get matched up in transition.

Aliyah Jeune raised her one with a mean stepback triple over Leilani McIntosh. USC shot 7-of-8 at the line in the final minute to secure their first Pac-12 road victory of the season.

UCLA 74, Cal 70 (OT)

As mentioned, Osborne, Chou and Owens combined to make seven early 3-pointers. The Bruins led by as many as 11 even though Onyenwere sat the final 16:45 (not a typo) of the first half with two fouls. That shooting dried up though, as the Bruins went 0-for-5 from deep the rest of the way.

UCLA got three chances to win it on the final possession of regulation. This one had some serious shades of the USC loss.

Jaelyn Brown made some huge plays for Cal in the extra period, blocking Onyenwere on the opening possession and drilling a really tough on-the-move game-tying triple.

Onyenwere drilled the go-ahead jumper two possessions later. In a way, UCLA should be proud that they were able to gut these wins out without turning in an A-performance. Japreece Dean shot 4-for-26, Onyenwere nearly sat for an entire half and shots were really only falling from the outside for one of four halves.

The Bruins will need to muster the best performance we’ve seen from them all season on Friday as they host the Ducks who are absolutely rolling since that loss at ASU.

Utah 74, UW 65

Washington spent too much of this first half in rotation or not being on the same page with their coverages. They were stuck scrambling to run Utah’s shooters off the line.

Now fast-forward to the fourth quarter. Lola Pendande really left her mark in those moments, converting a three-point play over Darcy Rees. Moments later as UW resorted to switching, Pendande dragged Missy Peterson into the post. Dru Gylten delivered the entry right away, and Pendande found Brynna Maxwell for an open triple.

Utah 78, WSU 66

Don’t let the final score fool you. This thing was a total blowout. Utah led by 16 after one, 21 at the half and as many as 34 in the third. WSU did get Ula Motuga back but their big two shot just 5-for-21.

Colorado may be trending in the wrong direction after this weekend, but don’t count Utah out as a potential spoiler for UCLA, the Arizonas and Stanford.

USC 79, USC 59

If Utah-WSU was a blowout, this was, um, something much bigger than that.

The Cardinal certainly responded to Friday’s outcome and came out with more pace and purpose offensively. Alyssa Jerome got the start in Prechtel’s place. Jerome nailed a spot-up 3-pointer in the opening minutes and built on that later driving all the way in for a layup. Stanford raced out to a 13-0 lead and led by 28 at the break.

Colorado 52, UW 61

Zone offense was a struggle for the Buffs all afternoon. This game took a sharp turn in the fourth. Peanut Tuitele came up with a steal but immediately turned it over. Mai-Loni Henson knocked down a 3-pointer to put the Huskies up by eight. Then Amber Melgoza and Darcy Rees drew charges on back-to-back possessions.

Game over? Not quite.

Neither team scored for almost three and a half minutes. Melgoza picked up her fourth foul and sat for 1:04 of game time. UW went into some ugly prevent offense dribbling the air out of the ball and firing up tough shots with the shot clock winding down.

Jaylyn Sherrod broke the double drought with a 3-pointer. UW would split their final four sets of free throws. Colorado starting the foul game at the 1:09 mark seemed a little dubious, though. What were they so afraid of after seeing UW’s last three possessions?

UW also managed to give Mya Hollingshed two pretty clean looks at 3-pointers as the trailer. Neither went down. These two teams are now tied at 3-9 in conference play.

Arizona 52, Oregon 85

Arizona 48, Oregon 79

Can we get back to viewing Oregon as the team so many people saw as a top title contender and at the very least, a 1B to Baylor’s 1A? Or are we bound by law to play the same reductive game where we penalize them for two losses simply because other teams have only lost once?

It’s been so strange to see so many people clearly all-in on the Ducks as that level of contender seemingly dissuaded by 1) a loss in a third game in three days to a team we already knew was going to be really good in Louisville while also re-integrating Satou Sabally on the fly after she left to compete with her national team and 2) one bad quarter in Tempe.

I’ll get off the soapbox and try to focus on the two games they played this weekend. Neither stayed interesting for very long. Aari McDonald said on the Pac-12 Women’s Basketball Podcast last week that her team couldn’t go on scoring droughts. They really struggled to get into any kind of flow against Oregon’s defense. Their collective length makes a huge difference paired with how locked in they’ve been as a team of late.

The aggressiveness we’ve seen from the likes of Carter and Thomas didn’t travel. The Reese-McBryde duo looked pretty clunky as each tried to figure out where to go. So then you have to ask, can Arizona play four guards against the Ducks? Defending them and getting the job done on the defensive glass would get much tougher.

It’s easier to come back to this question with Oregon defending so well as they hit this tough part of their schedule, but it still didn’t get asked enough. In addition to wondering if the defense will be good enough in March, we should also ask who can score enough to keep up? A big, big list of teams is priced out of that neighborhood. Which side of the fence will Arizona ultimately land on in non-home games?

The ASU game got a little chippy in the second half. That alone is reason enough to hope for a rubber match in Vegas. Oregon did switch some actions involving Robbi Ryan, making it easier to contest or even discourage the midrange pull-up—her bread and butter en route to her current 13.2 scoring average in Pac-12 play.

Games to watch

Friday, February 14: Oregon at UCLA, 11:00 PM ET, Pac-12 Network

Monday, February 17: Oregon State at UCLA, 9 PM ET, ESPN2

The Pac-12 regular season to date has all built up to these next two weekends as the Oregons hit the road for their lone meeting with UCLA then faceoff with Stanford. Somehow, even after dropping one to USC, UCLA controls its own destiny to go grab the regular-season crown.

Got any plans for Valentine’s Day yet?

  • Megan Hines has more on Stanford’s weekend:
  • In case you missed it, here’s the previous edition of ‘Around the Pac-12′ on Arizona’s statement win in the desert and another overtime for USC:

Love our 24/7 women’s basketball coverage? Join our Patreon now and support this work, while getting extra goodies and subscriber-only content for yourself.