The Ducks are hoping to experience some deja vu in Tucson, Ariz.
No. 6 Oregon can clinch a share of the Pac-12 regular-season title and the No. 1 seed at the women’s conference tournament in Las Vegas with a road victory on Friday night over Arizona (7 p.m., Pac-12 Networks).
On Feb. 25, 2018, the Ducks celebrated their first outright championship in 18 years at the McKale Center after a 74-61 victory.
“There’s no question we have a lot to play for,” Oregon coach Kelly Graves said. “It was a rough week for us, but I think any great team goes through some adversity. We experienced it last week. I wish we wouldn’t have lost to UCLA because then we would have had even more to celebrate on senior day.
“But I like that we have to stay sharp going down the stretch.”
The Ducks bounced back from the losses to Oregon State, which moved up to No. 9 in this week’s Associated Press ranking, and UCLA, which entered the poll at No. 25, with a 96-78 win over USC last Sunday at Matthew Knight Arena.
Now the Wildcats (17-10-, 7-9), who need a strong finish to get into the NCAA Tournament field, will look for a signature win over the defensing Pac-12 champions.
Arizona is coming off an 82-76 overtime loss at California. Aari McDonald, who leads the Pac-12 in scoring, finished with 31 points.
In the previous meeting on Jan. 20 at Matthew Knight Arena, the Ducks opened the game with a 20-0 run and cruised to a 93-60 win. McDonald scored 20 points, but Sabrina Ionescu posted a triple-double (21 points, 12 rebounds, 12 assists) and Satou Sabally poured in 25 points on 9-for-14 shooting for Oregon.
“I think they’re still on the bubble. They still have a shot, and a win against a top team helps their resume,” Graves said of the Wildcats. “They’re solid. I like them. They have an elite scorer that on any night can carry them.
“We’re looking forward to it. Outside of the game at Oregon State, we’ve actually played quite well on the road.”
Ruthy Hebard, who missed the second half of the Civil War loss in Corvallis and the home loss to the Bruins, was cleared to play before the USC game. The junior forward scored 13 points on 5-for-6 shooting with eight rebounds in 16 minutes against the Trojans.
Graves said Hebard’s minutes will still be limited this weekend. The Ducks took Monday and Tuesday off, had a light workout on Wednesday and took a charter flight from Eugene to Tucson on Thursday.
“We all hate to lose,” Ionescu said after Oregon snapped its two-game losing streak. “We kind of opened our eyes and realized teams are out to come get us, regardless of what the score is at halftime. So we have a target on our back, and I think that’s going to make us better.
“We have to play to that level of excellence game in, game out, or teams are going to beat us.”