Posted on January 10, 2020
Most of the league started Pac-12 play with their rivalry games last week, but this week it was time for everybody to get to it. Things went as expected, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t some exciting action along the way.
On the Court
The only game featuring ranked teams was the then-No. 10 UCLA Bruins hosting the No. 18 Arizona Wildcats. It opened with two of the final unbeaten teams in the country, so something had to give.
The first half was a fight, ending in a 31-31 tie. The problem for the Wildcats was that the Bruins were going to the line a lot. While it didn’t have a huge impact on the score in the early going, it did start the ball rolling on foul trouble that would cause problems for Arizona later in the game.
The hosts would have had a sizable lead if they were able to hit those foul shots, but they struggled with that in the opening half. Their 13-2 advantage in trips to the line was only a 4-2 advantage in made free throws. They would clean that up in the second half, exploiting their 10-to-5 advantage in free throw attempts by going 7-for-10.
The Bruins imposed their will in the third quarter, outscoring the Wildcats 28-13. They shot 60 percent from the field, went 6 for 9 from the 3-point line and hit all four of their foul shots.
The hole was too big to crawl out of. Arizona outscored UCLA 14-11 in the final quarter, but the inability to come out strong in the second half condemned them to the loss. The fouls also came back to haunt them as they lost two starters, Sam Thomas and Semaj Smith, to disqualification in the fourth.
The Colorado Buffaloes traveled to face the No. 2 Oregon Ducks and No. 3 Oregon State Beavers in their biggest tests of the season. Friday’s tilt against the Ducks was not a contest. The nation’s second-ranked team blew the doors off in a 104-46 victory.
Sunday was a different story, though. As suggested in this column last week, it would be important for the Buffs to have a short memory if things went poorly in Eugene. They did. Colorado came out strong in Corvallis, taking the 21-17 lead in the first quarter. Oregon State responded. The second quarter would be the ultimate undoing of the Buffs, as the Beavers outscored them 23-9
Colorado didn’t let it discourage them. They regrouped at halftime, outscoring the home team by six in the third. As in the first half, though, Oregon State responded in the next quarter. They had the eight-point advantage in the fourth to put the touches on a 72-60 victory.
In many ways, the Buffs were their own worst enemies. They went to the line 16 times against the Beavers, but could only connect on seven of those shots. Going 43.8 percent from the foul line on the road against the nation’s No. 3 team is not going to get the job done.
In the Rankings
The AP voters were impressed by UCLA’s victory over Arizona, moving the Bruins up to No. 8 in this week’s poll. They left the rest of the Pac-12 teams, including the No. 18 Wildcats, in place. With Oregon at No. 2, Oregon State at No. 3 and Stanford at No. 5, that puts four Conference teams in the top eight. Colorado is no longer receiving votes, leaving Arizona State as the only Pac-12 team in that list.
The USA Today/WBCA poll voters also rewarded UCLA by moving them to No. 9, but they also moved Arizona down one spot to No. 19. No. 2 Oregon, No. 3 Oregon State and No. 4 Stanford stood pat. Once again, Arizona State was the lone unranked team to receive votes.
Players of the Week
After playing a tough non-conference schedule, the Washington State Cougars didn’t get a lot of relief in their second week of conference play. The Cougs took the road trip to the Bay Area with a top-five Stanford team first on the schedule. It was their third top-five opponent of the season.
Although fellow senior Borislava Hristova is the top scorer for the Cougars this season, it was Pac-12 Player of the Week Chanelle Molina who stepped up to take the mantle in the Bay Area.
Molina went off for a season-high 27 points and added four rebounds and two steals to her stat line against Stanford in the Cougars’ 77-58 loss. Two days later, she set another season high with 28 points, eight rebounds, eight assists, a block and four steals against the California Golden Bears. This time, the Cougs got the 96-75 victory. It was WSU’s first win in Berkeley since 2011.
Oregon State’s Taylor Jones once again proved that she’s one of the best first-year players in the league when the Beavers hosted Colorado and Utah over the weekend. For the third time this season, she took the Pac-12 Freshman of the Week honor. Jones was one of three players who scored in double digits against the Utes on Friday. Her 15 points in 21 minutes tied senior guard Mikayla Pivec for second on the team. Jones also had four rebounds, an assist and a steal.
She wasn’t just productive in the blow-out, though. In the closer contest against the Buffs on Sunday, Jones was once again in double digits and tied with Pivec for second on the team with 16 points. She added 10 rebounds and six blocks in 28 minutes of play.
No. 3 Oregon State Beavers (14-0, 2-0) and No. 2 Oregon Ducks (12-1, 2-0) at No. 18 Arizona Wildcats (13-1, 2-1)
When: Friday, Jan. 10 at 7 p.m. PT/8 p.m. MT and Sunday, Jan. 12 at 11 a.m. PT/12 p.m. MT
TV: Pac-12 Networks
The only games featuring ranked opponents will be in Tucson this weekend. Arizona is coming off its first match-up against a top 10 team this season with a loss at UCLA. They get to return home, but they have two of the top three teams in the country waiting for them there.
The most competitive of the two games is likely to be the one on Friday night. The Beavers defeated Colorado last Sunday, but didn’t dominate the Buffaloes as might be expected by a top-three team playing an unranked opponent at home.
Last season, Oregon State dominated the match-up against Arizona early in the season, winning 86-64 in Corvallis. The return trip to Tucson was not quite as easy, though. It took the Beavers two overtimes to pull out the 65-60 victory. It was one of two multiple-overtime games that Arizona lost in McKale Center. Can they turn the tide this season?
As they showed in their opening weekend of play, the Oregon Ducks are a major step up in competition for just about everyone. It will be no different for Arizona. The closest contest between the two last year was Oregon’s 77-63 victory in the Pac-12 Tournament.
The biggest question for the Wildcats will be whether they can be effective for four full quarters against the Ducks, even if they lose the game. Oregon held Arizona to four points in the opening quarter in Eugene and blanked the Wildcats in the fourth quarter in Tucson last year. Arizona needs to show that they have taken a step forward from that this season.
No. 3 Oregon State Beavers (14-0, 2-0) at Arizona State Sun Devils (11-4, 1-2)
When: Sunday, Jan. 12 at 1 p.m. PT/2 p.m. MT
TV: Pac-12 Networks
Another game in the desert will be one worth watching. The Sun Devils got their first win in conference by defeating USC on the road last week. They have lost their other two games, both against ranked opponents, by a total of seven points. They also swept the Beavers last year.
Both teams have some exciting young players in the frontcourt. Three-time Pac-12 Freshman of the Week Jones is making her mark for the Beavers, while Eboni Walker is showing that she can be a star in this league for the Sun Devils.
The problem for ASU is that Oregon State has the better veterans, especially when it comes to offensive production. The Sun Devils will need to rely on their traditionally strong defense if they want to overcome that.
ASU is still receiving votes in both polls. Can they jump back in with a big win?
No. 8 UCLA Bruins (14-0, 3-0) at Colorado Buffaloes (12-2, 1-2)
When: Sunday, Jan. 12 at 11 a.m. PT/12 p.m. MT
TV: Pac-12 Los Angeles
Now out to a program best 14-0 start, the Bruins are firing on all cylinders. The upstart Buffaloes took a step back against Oregon last week, but had their moments against Oregon State two days later. This time, they get to host a top-10 team.
A win or close loss would show that the Buffs are for real this year. A blowout not only cements the Bruins as a force to be reckoned with in the league, but also on the national stage.
It’s by no means easy to play in Boulder. It’s a special challenge when it’s the second game in three days and the road team has to travel between states to play an early game on the back end. The Bruins have the talent, but they need to overcome both the logistics and the Buffaloes.
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