The Ducks are bracing for more drama in the Bay Area this weekend.
No. 3 Oregon (24-2, 13-1), which is closing in on the program’s third consecutive Pac-12 women’s basketball title, begins its final road trip of the regular season at last-place California (10-15, 2-12) on Friday at Haas Pavilion (6 p.m., Pac-12 Networks).
Coach Kelly Graves noted that Sabrina Ionescu, who is from nearby Walnut Creek, Calif., stunned the Bears with a long 3-pointer three years ago.
The buzzer-beating game-winner was the first of many shining moments during her storied career.
“She kind of popped onto the national scene with a half-court shot to beat Cal as a freshman. And that just hasn’t slowed down since,” Graves said. “It will be an emotional weekend for her. I think she’s going to have a ton of family there.
“Stanford, for other reasons, will be emotional as well.”
Before the Ducks play No. 4 Stanford on Monday at Maples Pavilion (6 p.m., ESPN2), Ionescu will attend the memorial service for Kobe and Gianna Bryant earlier that day in Los Angeles.
Ionescu has dedicated Oregon’s season to the Los Angeles Lakers icon, his daughter and the seven other people who died in the helicopter crash on Jan. 26.
“I think she’s still living with it and will be reminded of it at the memorial,” Graves said. “She’s going to be part of that memorial on Monday. It’s still going to be there.
“I’m sure she’s using it as fuel in a positive way. It really hit close to home for her.”
The status of backup guard Taylor Chavez for this weekend is still to be determined.
Oregon’s reliable sixth player was held out of the USC game on Sunday and has not practiced this week due to another foot injury.
“It was precautionary,” Graves said. “She’s just kind of had the same kind of aggravated injury that she had last year. We just took the precaution.
“She’s doing great though. I don’t anticipate this is going to be long term.”
Chavez had appeared in the 25 previous games this season with three starts before Oregon’s 93-67 romp over the Trojans.
The sophomore guard had to watch the Ducks’ postseason run a year ago in street clothes due to a fractured metatarsal.
“I think she was smarter this year,” Graves said of Chavez, who didn’t tell the medical staff about her painful injury last season until after playing another game after it occurred. “She kind of let it go last year until it got so bad that we had to shut her down. She’s learned from that.
“As kids do, they want to play through all of that, and I think this year we caught it early so we were able to get on top of it.”
Chavez is averaging 6.4 points and 20.0 minutes per game while shooting a team-high 45.3% on 3-pointers. She scored a career-high 25 points on Nov. 13 against Utah State and scored 17 points against then-No. 12 Arizona on Feb. 7.
Freshman Jaz Shelley, who is averaging 6.6 points and 17.8 minutes, will be the primary backup for Ionescu and Minyon Moore if Chavez isn’t cleared to play.
“That definitely gives me a bigger role on the team when she’s out,” Shelley said. “I mean, I just need to step into her place and mimic what she’s been doing because she’s been so positive for our team.
“It’s been so good for our team to have her off the bench. She’s been coming in and doing something really positive, so I need to do the same thing and make sure there’s no hiccup in the rotation.”
Follow Ryan Thorburn on Twitter @RGDuckFootball and email questions to email@example.com. For more Oregon sports coverage, visit DuckSports.com.