No. 4 Oregon can hit the gas at the starting line or near the finish.
Kelly Graves’ team scored the first 20 points against Arizona en route to a 93-60 win during the previous home game and responded with a 33-9 run after No. 14 Utah took its only lead in Friday’s 87-65 win in front of 7,773 fans at Matthew Knight Arena.
"Oregon is fantastic with a great atmosphere and a great crowd, which makes it a very tough place to play,” Utes coach Lynne Roberts said after her team’s first road loss of the season.
The defending Pac-12 champions are 20-1 overall and 9-0 in conference play. The Ducks are also 11-0 at home, including 4-0 against ranked teams.
Oregon, which is in position for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, begins the second half of the Pac-12 regular season against Colorado on Sunday at Matthew Knight Arena (noon, no television).
“We’ve had some tough games, but we’ve handled them well,” sophomore Satou Sabally said after scoring a team-high 20 points against Utah. “We’re more mature and we’re ready for the second half of the season. We’re really excited for Stanford. I think we just kind of grew from the first half of the Pac-12 season.”
The Ducks have the Bay Area road trip and back-to-back Civil War showdowns looming, but first they need to run with the wounded Buffaloes (10-10, 0-9).
Colorado is on the opposite end of the standings and coming off an 89-65 loss at No. 9 Oregon State. Senior Alexis Robinson scored 24 points, sophomore Mya Hollingshed scored 16 points and junior Quinessa Caylao-Do added 14 points against the second-place Beavers (18-3, 8-1).
Star guard Kennedy Leonard, who leads the team in scoring and assists, is expected to miss her seventh consecutive games due to a foot injury.
Graves believes Oregon’s backcourt is the best in the country. Sabrina Ionescu, who leads the NCAA in assists, had an off night against the Utes, but Maite Cazorla picked up the slack with 16 points, seven assists and one turnover.
“Calmness. Defense. The ability to take the pressure off Sabrina,” Graves said of Cazorla’s role on a star-studded team. “If Maite is not running the point that means Sabrina is. That’s a lot more difficult. I think when we can run Sabrina off the ball it allows her a lot more opportunities to create instead of run the club.”
The Ducks are second nationally in scoring (89.0 ppg) and first in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.83) after finishing with nine turnovers and 21 assists against Utah.
Sabally has scored at least 19 points in nine of the last 11 games, Erin Boley leads the Pac-12 with 66 made 3-pointers and Ruthy Hebard is second in the NCAA in field-goal percentage (69.6 ppg).
Oti Gildon provided Oregon with a spark off the bench by scoring 10 points in the first half, which gave Graves six double-figure scorers against Utah.
“We just kind of played our game and got everyone the ball. We are really unselfish players,” Sabally noted. “The crowd also lifted us up a lot. They were engaged and cheering us on.”