The women’s basketball showdown between No. 3 Oregon and No. 9 Oregon State will be played in front of a sold-out crowd Friday night at Matthew Knight Arena.
Taylor Chavez has emerged as more than just a face in the crowd.
The true freshman guard leads the bench in minutes played and finished with eight points, two rebounds, one assist, one steal and one block during the Ducks’ 88-48 victory at Stanford last Sunday.
“It was exciting to be able to contribute, especially in a big game like this,” Chavez said after helping the visitors stun the crowd at Maples Pavilion. “This is a really big game for us in the conference and it’s fun to go in and be able to make a difference, whether it’s little or small. I’m glad I was able to do that.”
Oregon coach Kelly Graves believes Sabrina Ionescu and Maite Cazorla are the best backcourt in the nation.
It was hard to argue the point as the dynamic duo combined for 77 points, 28 assists and eight turnovers during the road sweep of the Bay Area schools.
Chavez, who has played in all 24 games, adds some quality depth behind the star-studded starting lineup. She is averaging 4.8 points, 1.7 assists, 1.4 rebounds and 18.9 minutes this season.
“They always give me an opportunity, so I like to come in and just do what I can to benefit and help the team,” Chavez said. “I feel really confident with how I’m playing right now.”
Erin Boley has helped replace graduated sharpshooter Lexi Bando from last year’s Pac-12 champion team. The Notre Dame transfer is averaging 12.9 points per game and shooting 45.2 percent (75-for-166) on 3-pointers.
Chavez has added defensive intensity to the rotation. The two-time Arizona high school player of the year is third on the team in blocks (7) and fourth in steals (30).
“I thought Taylor was great (against Stanford),” Graves said. “We’re going to need her. Foul trouble or a sprained ankle here, whatever there, you’re going to need that freshman to step in. I thought Taylor was terrific. A lot of defensive intensity.”
Chavez had a career-high 14 points and seven steals during Oregon’s road win at USC.
“It’s everything I thought it would be. It’s exciting, especially to be able to do it day in and day out,” Chavez said of joining a veteran group coming off back-to-back Elite Eight NCAA Tournament runs. “We’re peaking right now. It’s a great time to put everything together.
“We have great leadership on the floor and off the floor from the coaches and Sabrina and Maite as well. It feels good how we’re playing right now.”
Cazorla, who Graves says is easily the best defensive player on the team, has taken time after practices to exchange trade secrets with Chavez.
“It’s funny. She said, ‘Can you teach me your layups and I’ll teach you my floater?’” said Cazorla, who is nearly unstoppable attacking the basket in the pick-and-roll. “She’s really good at floaters. So I was like, ‘Alright, we should do that. I’ll help you, you help me.’
“But she usually works on her shot after practice. She works hard.”