It’s official: basketball is back in Eugene. Three top-10 wins in the span of two days between the Oregon’s men’s and women’s teams has the Eug buzzing.
Kelly Graves and the Ducks will host No. 9 UConn Monday at 2:00 p.m. for a chance to turn that buzz into a roar.
The Ducks are coming off an instant-classic upset of the No. 7 Arizona Wildcats. The Saturday afternoon affair at Matthew Knight Arena had everything: an overtime game that needed every minute of OT to finally find a winner, an MJ-esque performance from Te-Hina Paopao who dropped a career-high 24 points despite vomiting at halftime, a buzzer-beater from Endyia Rogers to clinch the victory, and Ducks legend Sabrina Ionescu courtside to witness it all.
The Ducks played an ugly first half, and they definitely did not play their best basketball. But they showed that when push comes to shove, this team has the talent and determination to hang with the best in the nation. Starting guard and Saturday’s hero Endyia Rogers is the perfect example. Rogers struggled mightily, shooting 1-for-10 before hitting the game winner under the basket with milliseconds left in OT. She dropped a quote after the game reminiscent of the ultra-confident Dion Waiters.
"I didn’t lose any confidence or anything," said Rogers. "But I made a big shot to win the game."
This Ducks team has fought through plenty of adversity early in the season, and they are ready to break out. Who stands in the way of this breakout? Just the second-winningest women’s college basketball coach of all time in Geno Auriemma and the No. 9 Connecticut Huskies. The Ducks are looking for their second straight win against UConn, with the last meeting of the two blue-blood programs coming on Feb. 3, 2020 when Ruthy Hebard’s 22 points led the Ducks to a 74-56 win Storrs, Conn. A two-game win streak isn’t much, but anything is historic against Geno and his Huskies.
If the Ducks win, they would be the only team in the country with an active winning streak against UConn. And if that wasn’t crazy enough, Ducks Digest writer Dylan Reubenking uncovered an even crazier stat:
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If history is to be believed, then the Ducks have bad odds against Auriemma looking for revenge. But the Huskies will have to do it without 2021’s Naismith College Player of the Year Paige Bueckers. The sensational point guard had knee surgery just over a month ago, and UConn hasn’t been quite the same since. They suffered two more losses after Bueckers went down, with a particularly hurtful 57-44 loss to unranked Georgia Tech in a game where the Huskies scored their fewest points in a game since 2006.
However, since UConn’s brightest star fell, it has given room for another to step up. Christyn Williams was the #1 recruit in the 2018 class but never truly got a chance to step up in the highly-competitive, star-studded Huskies program. The now-senior guard has been putting in work this season, averaging 14.6 points a game and 3.5 rebounds.
Oregon vs. UConn. Two historic programs ready to be the topic of conversation again. 2 p.m. at Matthew Knight Arena. You don't want to miss this one.
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Follow Graham on Twitter: @GrahamMetzker