The Ducks’ rise from the bottom of the conference to Pac-12 regular-season champions ended with a clinching victory last February in Tucson, Ariz.
No. 5 Oregon will face Arizona, a program attempting to embark on a similar journey, Sunday at Matthew Knight Arena (noon, Pac-12 Networks).
The Wildcats (13-4, 3-3), who ended the 2017-18 season with seven consecutive losses to finish 6-24 overall and 2-16 in Pac-12 play, received votes in this week’s Associated Press poll.
“We didn’t want to make it too easy because we need these fans to come back on Sunday,” coach Kelly Graves joked after Oregon held on for a 77-71 win over No. 19 Arizona State on Friday.
Sabrina Ionescu scored a season-high 31 points to lead the Ducks (16-1, 5-0). The junior guard made some timely jumpers and free throws against the Sun Devils’ stingy defense.
Maite Cazorla (16 points) and Satou Sabally (seven rebounds, four blocks) also made critical plays down the stretch to keep Oregon unscathed in conference play.
“We’ve shown that kind of poise all year,” Graves said of his team, which improved to 3-0 against ranked teams this season after beating Syracuse (75-73) and Mississippi State (82-74) during nonconference play. “They’ve been in a lot of big games like this.”
Despite losing 86-64 at No. 10 Oregon State on Friday night in Corvallis, Arizona leads the Pac-12 in scoring defense, allowing 56.2 points per game.
Sophomore Aari McDonald leads the Pac-12 in scoring (25.2 ppg).
“We played against each other in high school. She’s just so explosive and strong with the ball. She’s a great guard,” Ionescu said of McDonald, who had 20 points against the Beavers. “She’s quick, she shoots the ball well, she gets to the basket well. She’s their best player.
“So I think it's going to be a good match between us, and we’re just going to have to come out and play hard like we have these last two weekends.”
Oregon has won nine consecutive games to keep pace with Stanford (15-1, 5-0) and Oregon State (15-2, 5-0) in the conference standings.
Arizona has impressive wins over Arizona State and California but was outscored by a combined 52 points in back-to-back losses to Stanford and Oregon State.
“We’re going to just continue doing what we’re doing, pick up the defensive intensity,” Ionescu said. “We know they’re going to come in and play well because they have been playing well. So we’re just going to have to battle.”