Oregon seniors Maite Cazorla and Oti Gildon remember what Matthew Knight Arena sounded like when they first joined the program.
“I think it was really like 100 people, a few hundred maybe max,” Cazorla said. “It was really quiet. Like everyone could just sit in the student section.
“Compared to now, and hopefully how it’s going to be on Friday, it’s amazing.”
On Nov. 19, 2015, the official attendance for the rebuilding Ducks’ victory over Hampton, the first home game for Cazorla and Gildon, was 956.
“It was pretty quiet,” Gildon recalled. “Pretty much it was all kids that were here. It wasn’t very exciting to come in and play here.
“Now we’re averaging 6,000, 7,000 fans, so we’re always excited for a home game to make our fans proud.”
Oregon’s average home attendance when Cazorla and Gildon were freshmen in 2015-16 was 1,629. The attendance steadily grew to 2,595 in 2016-17 and 4,255 in 2017-18.
This season the program leads the Pac-12 in attendance, averaging 6,567 per home game.
For the second time in the history of the venue, No. 3 Oregon will host No. 9 Oregon State in a sold-out women’s Civil War game on Friday at Matthew Knight Arena (6 p.m., Pac-12 Networks).
The Ducks’ first game at Matthew Knight Arena (12,364 capacity) on Jan. 23, 2011, an 81-72 win over the rival Beavers, was also sold out.
The only sellout for a women’s game at McArthur Court was on March 10, 2000, for Oregon’s 60-53 win over Oregon State.
“It’s pretty special,” Oregon coach Kelly Graves said of the excitement surrounding the back-to-back matchups with Oregon State. “I think Gill (Coliseum) will be sold out on Monday night, so that’s going to be roughly 21,000 fans that will be showing up over the next two games.
“That’s pretty cool, that’s great for the state of Oregon.”
The Ducks (23-1, 12-0) have the nation’s longest active winning streak (16) and are coming off a road sweep at California and Stanford. Oregon pummeled the Bay Area schools by an average score of 96.5 to 65.0.
The Beavers (20-4, 10-2), who lost at Stanford and beat Cal, are alone in second place in the standings, two games behind the defending champions.
Oregon snapped a 14-game losing streak to Oregon State last season. Both teams made it to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament.
“They’ve had the better of us for quite a while. In terms of it being even, we’ve got some work to do and that’s what we hope to get turned around on Friday night,” Graves said. “But the fact that both teams are in the top 10, I think are going to be perennially top-10 kind of teams, this has a chance to shape up to be something really special.”
The Ducks lead the NCAA in scoring (90.2 ppg), field-goal percentage (52.6), 3-point field-goal percentage (43.8) and assist-to-turnover ratio (1.91).
Sabrina Ionescu leads the team in scoring (19.3 ppg) and leads the NCAA in assists (8.2 apg).
The Beavers are third in 3-point field-goal percentage (41.7) and are one of three teams, along with Baylor and UConn, that rank in the top-10 nationally in field-goal percentage (48.5) and defensive field-goal percentage (34.7).
“They defend really well. They’re a really good team,” sophomore forward Satou Sabally said. “I think they’re the second-best 3-point shooting team in the country, but after us. I guess we do some good things, too.
“Scott Rueck is really a smart coach. But there is a rivalry, so I guess we’re better.”
The NCAA Tournament selection committee announced Oregon was the No. 1 seed in the Portland Regional in its first reveal of the top 16 seeds Monday.
Oregon State, currently slotted as the No. 3 seed in the Albany Regional with No. 1 Mississippi State and No. 2 UConn, would move into a tie with the Ducks in the standings with a sweep.
The Beavers will have to at least earn a Civil War split to prevent Oregon from running away with the regular-season Pac-12 title.
No matter what happens, it’s going to be loud.
“The coaches said to me, by your junior, senior year hopefully we’ll sell out, we’ll be good,” Cazorla said. “I was like, that would be amazing if that happens. It actually happened and it’s awesome.”