LAS VEGAS — What is Kelly Graves’ idea of a good time here?
Cutting down nets and collecting trophies.
Top-seeded Oregon, the back-to-back Pac-12 regular-season champion, is focused on defending its conference tournament title in a city of temptation.
“I don’t think it’s going to be a huge distraction for the players. The lounge is a little smokier when you walk through the hotel, that’s about it,” Graves said of the event moving from Seattle to The Strip. “I don’t anticipate that they’re going to be on the craps table or anything like that.
“It’s a business trip and it just happens to be in Las Vegas.”
Graves’ Gonzaga teams won five West Coast Conference Tournament titles at nearby Orleans Arena.
The sixth-ranked Ducks (27-3) will face Arizona, the No. 8 seed, in the quarterfinals Friday at MGM Grand Garden Arena (2 p.m., Pac-12 Networks).
The Wildcats (18-12) mauled No. 9 USC 76-48 in the opening round Thursday, holding the Trojans (17-13) to their lowest point total of the season.
“We’re in a situation where we’re not afraid to be underdogs. When you’re the underdog, you have no pressure, so you can go out and just play your game,” Arizona coach Adia Barnes said. “And whatever happens happens, because no one expects you to win. I think for us there’s no pressure, so we can go out and have fun and just play basketball. For Oregon, there’s more pressure because they’re supposed to win.
“At this time of year, anything can happen. We’re feeling good, we’re confident and we have to go out show what we can do.”
Several of the Oregon players were taking photos with Duck fans outside the venue before the opening tip.
“Vegas is Vegas,” Pac-12 player of the year Sabrina Ionescu said. “There’s just been a huge buzz about the Pac-12 Tournament being held in Vegas. We’ve never been there. Erin (Boley’s) never been to Vegas, period.
“I think this is going to be a fun opportunity for this group of girls to go out there and hopefully win that tournament.”
Assistants Mark Campbell and Xavi Lopez watched Arizona storm out to a 44-21 lead after shooting 56.7 percent and holding the Trojans to 23.5 percent from the field in the first half.
Graves and assistant Jodie Berry took over the scouting duties on press row for the second half.
“I think anything new that they may have put in,” Graves said of what he was looking for ahead of the third meeting with Barnes’ young and improving team. “At this point, everybody is who they are. We’re not going to be running anything different, so to speak. We might tweak some of the stuff but not really anything. They’re fresh in our memories.”
Oregon swept Arizona during the regular season, storming out to a 20-0 lead en route to a 93-60 win in Eugene and clinching a share of the Pac-12 championship with an 83-54 victory a week ago in Tucson.
Guard Aari McDonald, the Pac-12’s leading scorer, and forward Cate Reese, who was voted to the conference’s all-freshman team, scored 19 points each to make sure their team survived and advanced without any drama Thursday.
Tee Tee Starks (14 points, 4-for-5 on 3-pointers) and Sam Thomas (10 points, 4-for-4 from the field) also played well for Arizona.
“We came out with a level of intensity that I expected from this team,” Barnes said. “We're playing our best basketball right now. That’s not evident because we have the gauntlet the last four games of the regular season.”
The Wildcats were swept on the Bay Area trip but had a potential game-winning shot rim out at Stanford and squandered a 20-point lead at California. Oregon State escaped with a 65-60 double-overtime win at Arizona on Sunday.
Ionescu averaged 21.5 points, 10.0 rebounds and 8.0 assists in the first two meetings. McDonald averaged 23.0 points for the Wildcats in the lopsided losses.
“We just can’t let them get hot,” McDonald said of the Ducks. “I’m excited for this matchup and so are my teammates. They put on their shoes just like us, so we’re ready.”
Arizona outscored USC 40-20 in the paint and had a 41-28 rebounding edge. The Ducks are 3-0 since junior forward Ruthy Hebard returned from her knee injury.
“What makes Oregon really special is they have four players who can shoot above 40 percent from the 3-point line and they have a really good post player inside,” Barnes said. “So it’s really difficult to double off of anybody because of their shooting ability. We know to win the game we’ve got to play 40 minutes of really good basketball, but we’re very capable.
“Our team is confident and feeling good. I think they’re ready for the challenge.”