Hebard playing through knee injury, Chavez will not play due to a foot injury
The Ducks will be rolling with seven healthy bodies in Las Vegas.
Oregon coach Kelly Graves said all-Pac-12 forward Ruthy Hebard won’t completely recover from her knee injury until after the season and freshman guard Taylor Chavez will not be available for the Pac-12 Tournament due to a foot injury.
The good news for Graves is his entire starting lineup was on the all-Pac-12 team or received honorable mention.
The top-seeded Ducks (27-3) will play either No. 8 Arizona or No. 9 USC in Friday's quarterfinals at MGM Grand Garden Arena (2 p.m., Pac-12 Networks).
“We’re kind of used to it now, but it does sometimes shock us when there’s only five of us in the locker room,” Sabrina Ionescu said. “We’re like, well, this is who’s practicing today guys. It’s more kind of jokingly. We know (Chavez) is going to hopefully come back and join us towards the end of the season.
“It’s something we’ve been dealing with this whole season. Coach has done a good job of resting us and making sure we have time to get treatment and that stuff. We’ll be fine.”
Hebard went down with a knee injury Feb. 18 during the second quarter of Oregon’s loss at rival Oregon State. Then the 6-foot-4 junior watched from the bench as her team squandered a 22-point lead and suffered a deflating home defeat to UCLA.
During the Ducks’ three-game winning streak to clinch the program’s second consecutive Pac-12 regular-season title, a hobbled Hebard has averaged 11.3 points, 9.3 rebounds and 24.7 minutes.
“I don’t think Ruthy will be back to where she was before the injury for the rest of the season, quite honestly,” Graves said after Wednesday’s practice at Matthew Knight Arena before the team departed for Las Vegas. “That’s just something that’s going to need some rest and, unfortunately, she doesn’t get that luxury right now. We have a lot of games to play.
“But she’s really tough. The fact that she was giving it a go at Oregon State to go back in is amazing and that she came back this quickly, but she’s a strong athlete and strong-minded person. She’ll get through it. She’ll never make an excuse, that’s for sure.”
Oregon, which only has 10 players on the entire roster, has been without talented 6-4 freshman forward Nyara Sabally all season due to a knee injury.
Lydia Giomi, a developing 6-6 redshirt sophomore, had three offensive rebounds in 12 minutes last Sunday during the championship-clinching win at Arizona State. Hebard played 30 minutes but was 2-for-7 from the field with five points and 11 rebounds.
“(Giomi) had a good weekend in the desert,” Graves said. “She’s a good player, she’s just playing alongside or behind Ruthy Hebard, one of the best centers in the country, so there’s only so many minutes you can get her. But she’s certainly capable, and we’ve played them together a little bit.”
Graves said Chavez could play again this season if the team makes another deep run in the NCAA Tournament.
Ionescu and backcourt mate Maite Cazorla are averaging 35.0 and 32.1 minutes, respectively, and have started all 30 games with forwards Satou Sabally (29.5 mpg) and Erin Boley (27.7 mpg).
Oti Gildon leads the bench in minutes played (516). Morgan Yaeger, who has appeared in 18 games, will have an opportunity to help make up for the absence of Chavez.
“It just kind of depends on the players coming off the bench and how well they’re playing,” Graves said. “They played well this last weekend, so we’ll try to manage it the best we can. At this point, everybody’s tired on every team, so you kind of find a way to get through it and be mentally tough.
“I don’t think there’s a more mentally tough team than ours.”
Ionescu was voted the Pac-12 player of the year by the media Wednesday after receiving the award from the coaches Tuesday. Graves, who was voted the coach of the year by his peers, was edged out by UCLA’s Cori Close.
The media’s 15-team all-Pac-12 team included Ionescu, Hebard and Sabally but not Cazorla. All four were on the coaches’ all-conference team and Boley was honorable mention.
“I think it’s great because it’s voted on by your peers, and that’s special. Let’s face it, we have some great coaches in this conference,” Graves said of earning the Pac-12 coach of the year award for the first time. “I think it’s a staff award. They’ve earned this. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not that big a deal. To me the championship and the success of our players, that’s what’s real special and that’s what it’s all about.
“I don’t get any awards myself if the team isn’t really good, and the team is very good.”