Ducks look to regain footing against Washington
GAME OF THE WEEK: The slumping Oregon Ducks have fallen to 2-3 in Pac-12 play and eighth in the conference standings, and any shot at making the NCAA Tournament field — apart from a conference tournament win — seems to be rapidly slipping away. But they could boost their season Thursday with a victory at home over Washington, the last undefeated team in Pac-12 play. The Ducks have won six straight over the Huskies.
Oregon (11-7, 2-3 Pac-12) was ranked No. 14 in the preseason but key injuries have taken a toll. Bol Bol, arguably the biggest recruiting catch in Oregon history, was lost for his lone college season after left foot surgery. Forward Kenny Wooten broke his jaw and missed four games but came back last week for the Ducks’ split with the Arizona schools.
The Huskies (14-4, 5-0) are 5-0 in conference play for the first time since the 1983-84 season, when they started 6-0. Washington had its first road sweep in six years when it won at Utah and Colorado. But while the Huskies’ start in conference play is impressive, it’s also come against some of the weaker teams in the Pac-12. None of Washington’s five wins have come against teams ranked in the top 99 of the latest NCAA Net Rankings.
LOOKING AHEAD: In addition to Washington’s visit to Oregon, Arizona (14-5, 5-1) visits USC (10-8, 3-2), which is coming off a confidence-boosting 80-67 victory over rival UCLA. It is the first of three road games for the Wildcats as they try to keep up with the Huskies. A key for Arizona against the Los Angeles teams will be the health of big man Chase Jeter, who had back spasms after a hard fall last weekend against Oregon State. Jeter is listed as questionable for the game against the Trojans.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS: Nick Rakocevic was the Pac-12 Player of the Week after his 21 points and 12 rebounds for the Trojans in the victory over UCLA — which snapped a four-game USC losing streak. … According to the Pac-12, in 32 league games so far this season, the averaging scoring margin is 13.1 points, with 11 games decided by single digits and three games decided by one possession, meaning three points or less.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Washington’s Matisse Thybulle and Oregon State’s Kylor Kelley were named to the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year watch list this week. They are the only two players from the Pac-12 to make the list of 15 from around the country.
Thybulle may be the leader for defensive player of the year in the conference yet again. The senior guard was the conference defensive player of the year a season ago and leads the conference in steals at 2.7 per game and is second in blocks at 2.3. He’s the only player in the country currently averaging that many steals and that many blocks per game.
Kelley, a 7-foot Oregon native, leads the nation in blocked shots with 3.94 per game. He had an Oregon State-record nine blocked shots against Pepperdine. He also set a school record with multiple blocks in 15 straight games.
ON THE WOMEN’S SIDE: Utah is ranked for the first time in more than a decade, coming in at No. 21 in the AP poll. The Utes join four other ranked Pac-12 teams, including No. 5 Oregon, No. 6 Stanford, No. 9 Oregon State and No. 16 Arizona State. … Cal’s Kristine Anigwe was named Pac-12 Player of the Week after averaging 29.5 points and 20.5 rebounds per game last week against Washington State and Washington. … Oregon and Stanford are the lone undefeated teams in conference play, both at 6-0. The Ducks visit the Washington schools this week while Stanford is on the road against Colorado and Utah.