The star-studded matchup between Oregon and UCLA last season at Matthew Night Arena was an instant classic.
The Ducks escaped the top-10 battle with a 101-94 overtime victory to sweep the regular-season series on the way to winning Pac-12 championship.
“This is a real sweet victory,” coach Kelly Graves said after the thriller in front of 7,098 witnesses and a national television audience on Feb. 19, 2018. “An amazing crowd and arguably the biggest game in Oregon women’s basketball history.”
It was the game of the year in women’s basketball until the Arike Ogunbowale’s back-to-back buzzer-beaters for Notre Dame at the Final Four.
The rematch between No. 2 Oregon and UCLA on Friday at Matthew Knight Arena (8 p.m., Pac-12 Networks) didn’t look like it was going to be all that competitive after the Ducks dismantled the Bruins 72-52 on Jan. 13 in Los Angeles.
But the surging Bruins (16-10, 9-5) have won seven of their last eight games, including road wins at then-No. 16 Arizona State (61-59) and then-No. 17 Utah (100-90).
Oregon is expected to be without injured forward Ruthy Hebard, who finished with 19 points on 7-for-12 shooting and 18 rebounds in the first meeting at Pauley Pavilion.
“We’d much rather have a full squad with us, but we’re going to be fine,” Graves said of being without Hebard indefinitely due to a bone bruise on her right knee. “And no one is going to feel sorry for us, that’s for sure. I don’t think they’re going to say, ‘OK, we’re not going to play quite as hard.’
“We’re going to get everybody’s best shot and we need to go finish this thing now.”
The Ducks (24-2, 13-1), whose 17-game winning streak ended with Monday’s 67-62 loss at No. 12 Oregon State, have a two-game lead in the Pac-12 standings with four games remaining in the regular season.
Oregon would clinch at least a share of the conference title with a sweep of UCLA and USC this weekend.
Senior forward Oti Gildon is expected to start in place of Hebard during the final regular-season homestand of her career.
UCLA is led by forward Michaela Onyenwere (18.0 ppg, 8.4 rpg), who has scored over 20 points in her last four games.
“I have full faith in our group,” Graves said. “For whatever reason it wasn’t clicking the other night. Now that we have some time to practice without Ruthy, I think we can work some other things and be a little bit more prepared.”
Hebard was injured in the second quarter at Oregon State. An MRI revealed no structural damage to her right knee.
In Hebard’s absence, Sabrina Ionescu led the Ducks back from an 11-point deficit with 21 points and seven assists. The reigning Pac-12 player of the year will still be looking for a bounce-back shooting performance after being held to 9-for-25 from the field by the rival Beavers.
Satou Sabally and Erin Boley added 12 points each for Oregon, which shot a season-low 35.8 percent.
“I feel comfortable having to fill in whatever role I have to with this team,” Boley said of possibly playing more in the post until Hebard is cleared to play. “So I’ll continue to work on that part of my game during practice and hopefully contribute in any way that I can.”