The No. 5 Oregon women’s basketball team put on an impressive show for Kobe Bryant on Friday night.
The Los Angeles Lakers legend may have been even more impressed had he showed up to team’s walk-through on Saturday.
After bullying USC 93-53 with Bryant in attendance at the Galen Center, the Ducks (15-1, 4-0) conducted an NBA-style shoot-around instead of a traditional practice to prepare for Sunday’s 72-52 win over UCLA at Pauley Pavilion.
Coach Kelly Graves trusts his experienced team and wants to make sure a talented but thin roster remains healthy and ebullient throughout the grind of the season.
“I think there’s a real rhythm to the Pac-12 that’s nice,” Graves said on Monday after sweeping the Los Angeles trip for the second consecutive season, something the program had never done until last year. “They know what our schedule is from week to week, they know when their off days are. I think we’re late enough into the season that quite frankly Saturday our practice in between games was a walk-through, a pro shoot-around. Lots of shooting, just walking through their offense. I don’t even know if any of them even broke a sweat really.
“They were able to turn it on the next day. They had a lot of energy, they weren’t tired. I think that’s a mark of a real veteran team to prepare mentally instead of just physically.”
Ruthy Hebard scored 19 points and grabbed 18 rebounds, including 10 on the offensive glass, during a dominant performance against the Bruins (9-8, 2-3).
Oregon had a 47-29 rebounding edge over UCLA, an athletic team that still ranks sixth nationally in offensive rebounds (17.8 per game).
“As impressive of a display as we’ve had since I’ve been here,” Graves said. “That’s a team that normally outrebounds everybody.”
Before conference play began, the coaching staff challenged Satou Sabally to put more effort into her rebounding. The 6-foot-4 forward had 19 points and 11 rebounds on Sunday and is averaging a team-high 22.3 points and 9.3 rebounds in Pac-12 play.
“It’s not like those balls are just coming into her hands. She’s usually outside and she’s sprinting in to go get them,” Graves said of Sabally taking her game to a different level recently. “She’s getting offensive rebounds and put-backs, she’s realized she can score in a variety of ways, and that just helps her entire game when she’s real aggressive.
“She’s still just scratching the surface.”
Oregon ranks second nationally in scoring (89.5 ppg) and field-goal percentage (51.2), but Graves was more pleased with the defensive effort on the road trip.
The Ducks held USC to 29.1 percent shooting and forced 22 turnovers that led to 36 points and limited UCLA to 35.0 percent from the field, including 24 percent (3-for-12) on three-pointers.
“I think we just have focused on it a little bit more,” Graves said. “The games we’ve really paid attention to the (scouting report), the Mississippi State game and in the Pac-12, we’ve defended quite well. Not that we didn’t scout the other teams, we did, but we really game planned (USC and UCLA).
“Our kids have shown they have very high basketball I.Q.’s, they’ve stuck to the plan and really defended well.”
Oregon will host No. 19 Arizona State on Friday at Matthew Knight Arena (6 p.m., Pac-12 Networks).