The Oregon women’s basketball team is looking forward to being in the national spotlight again.
On the court this time.
Four days after coach Kelly Graves was handed a two-game suspension by the NCAA for rules violations the school self-reported, the third-ranked Ducks play Michigan State on Sunday at the Breslin Center (noon, ESPN2).
Oregon still has 11 more days to appeal the punishment of Graves, who said he’s ready to “just move on” and focus on the Spartans (7-1).
“I do think the team is hungry,” Graves said in a telephone interview from East Lansing, Mich. “I know our opponents will be. It’s a good opportunity for them to go against a good team on their home floor.”
Michigan State’s only loss this season was at the Cancun Challenge against North Carolina State (78-74), which is ranked No. 10 in this week’s Associated Press poll.
The Spartans are led by 6-foot-4 senior center Jenna Allen, who is averaging 15.0 points and 7.4 rebounds.
Five different Michigan State players are averaging double figures in scoring and nine players are averaging at least 6.9 points.
“By far the best true post player we’ve seen,” Graves said of Allen. “She can also step out and shoot the ball and make mid-range baskets. And we haven’t been great on post defense.”
Oregon will counter with Ruthy Hebard, who is averaging 17.4 points and 8.0 rebounds. The junior forward ranks third in the NCAA in field-goal percentage (71.2).
Sabrina Ionescu leads the Ducks in scoring (18.0 ppg), rebounding (8.6 rag) and assists (8.6 apg). The reigning Pac-12 player of the year set the program single-game assists record with 17 during last Sunday’s 110-48 win over Long Beach State.
Oregon’s players spent most of the last week finishing the fall term.
“Practices sometimes are difficult during final exams,” Graves said. “You can’t expect a lot of intensity or put anything new in because their brains are fried to some degree.”
The Ducks (7-0) lead the nation in scoring (94.7 ppg) and assist-to-turnover ratio (2.03) and are second in field-goal percentage (54.3).
Oregon has a 2-0 advantage in the series, including an 88-55 victory on Nov. 22, 2016, at Matthew Knight Arena, but this is the first meeting on the Spartans’ home court.
“It’s a good challenge,” Graves said. “and at the same time, it’s something we need.”