Doss: It’s Steady as She Goes for Pac-12 Women’s Basketball

Week 6 — On the Court; In the Rankings; Players of Week; Up Next

Posted on December 11, 2019

Kim Doss
  By Kim Doss, SportsPac12

This week wasn’t a big one for the Conference of Champions. With semesters winding down, teams with options chose to limit their play. Playing at or close to home is one way they do that. Playing fewer games is another. Most Pac-12 teams chose both.

 

On the Court

The week started out very strong. Through the league’s first 10 games, everyone was winning comfortably. The most worrisome outcome was Arizona State needing to erase a 12-point deficit against BYU on the way to an eight-point victory. BYU came into the game at 3-2 with losses to fellow Pac-12 teams Washington State and Utah. But a win is a win, and this one was win No. 450  at ASU for Sun Devil coach Charli Turner Thorne.

Then, ASU again had a troubling outing. Already down two players, the Sun Devils lost starting guard Robbi Ryan with 7:36 to go in the first half against Idaho State. The Bengals are a middle-of-the-pack team sporting an RPI of 180 out of 351 teams. ASU showed that they are a bit thin when they needed overtime to pull out the five-point victory at Desert Financial Arena.

Things didn’t get better for the league, as the final two games of the weekend were losses. Washington State continued with their difficult schedule which is ranked as the twelfth-best slate in women’s basketball according to BennettRankIt wasn’t surprising to see the Cougars dropping a game to No. 17 Gonzaga. It was their fourth ranked opponent in the last five games. As expected, they are now 5-4 after that stretch.

The Cougs’ rival in Seattle ended the league’s weekend with a more unexpected loss. While Washington wasn’t projected to finish in the top half of the league, they do have some experience and one of the league’s top guards in Amber Melgoza. The Huskies were set to host Hawai’i on Sunday afternoon.

The Rainbow Wahine came into the game at 4-5. They were hanging their hat on a victory over Texas back on Dec. 1. Despite the Longhorns’ difficulties this season, that was considered an upset. Hawai’i followed that up with a 32-point loss to Oregon State. While the current Huskies are closer to the Longhorns than the Beavers, they looked to have a good shot of earning the win on their home court.

Washington’s Mai-Loni Henson brings the ball up with Darcy Rees. | UW Athletics

Instead, Washington came out flat. They missed their first five shots and didn’t get on the board until Khayla Rooks hit a free throw at the 6:24 mark. The problems didn’t stop there. The Huskies scored just six points in the opening quarter and shot just 22.6 percent for the game. They went a dreadful 4-for-29 from the 3-point line. If it weren’t for their 20 points off Rainbow Wahine turnovers, the 12-point loss could have been even worse.

While it wasn’t a great way to end the week, the league still went 11-2. Most teams got over the difficulties caused by injuries or finals, pulling out the victories they were expected to get.

In the Rankings

That record meant that the five ranked teams moved a little bit, but no one joined or left them this week. The bigger news on the rankings front was the release of the year’s first official RPI report.

While the polls drive media coverage and fan interest, the RPI will ultimately have a bigger influence on the teams’ goals. The season is still early and most of the conference teams will see their rankings fluctuate once they get into league play, but what else are fans going to talk about on Twitter?

The first RPI, issued after the completion of games on Dec. 8, were promising. Two teams were in the top five: Oregon State at No. 1 and Stanford at No. 4. Oregon was the only other team in the top 20, dropping in at No. 13. Things got interesting from there. Arizona, which was projected as the No. 6 team in the conference, was the fourth Pac-12 team according to RPI. The Wildcats debuted at No. 38.

 

Another shocker followed. Colorado—projected to finish last in the Conference—sat at No. 44. UCLA came next at No. 51.

 

The second half of the league was led by California (56). Behind the Golden Bears were ASU (76), USC (80) and Washington State (84). Outside the top 100 was Washington (156) and Utah (194).

 

In the polls, the league gained another top-10 team. In the AP poll, Stanford and Oregon stayed put at No. 1 and No. 3, respectively. The Beavers kept climbing, moving to another highest-ever ranking at No. 4. This week, those four were joined by UCLA, who finally broke through for the No. 10 position.
That left Arizona as the only ranked Pac-12 team outside the top 10. Colorado and ASU are still trying to join the Wildcats. Both teams received votes from the media, although neither are currently close to reaching the 25th spot.

 

The coaches made the same changes in the top 10 of the USA Today/WBCA poll. Stanford and Oregon remained at No. 1 and No. 3. Oregon State moved up to No. 4, and UCLA got into the top 10. Last week, Arizona was tied with Tennessee at No. 19. The Lady Vols lost a game and dropped five spots, leaving the Wildcats in sole possession of the 19th spot. Their rivals up I-10 continue to get votes, giving the league six teams getting at least some votes from the coaches.

 

Players of the Week

 

Cate Reese

Arizona’s Cate Reese was the first female McDonald’s All-American to play for the Wildcats. She came in with a great deal of hype, and has been the second-leading scorer for the Wildcats since stepping on campus. As a freshman, she won Freshman of the Week three times and was selected as a member of the Pac-12 All-Freshman team.

This year, she was named to the Katrina McClain Award preseason watch list. She leads the Wildcats in shooting percentage (55.2 percent) and ranks eighth in the league. Her 9.0 rebounds per game leads Arizona and is third in the Pac-12. She just hasn’t gotten the same buzz that her teammate Aari McDonald gets.

This week, Reese finally got that attention after getting back-to-back double-doubles as she led her injury-depleted team to two wins. Arizona started the week with two players out due to injury and another playing through an injury.

When they faced Monmouth on Dec. 2, they lost two more—including fellow starting forward Dominique McBryde. Arizona got that win at home behind 16 points and 11 rebounds from Reese. Then, they went on the road to face UTEP. There, the Wildcats had five players sitting out due to injury or illness and McDonald saddled with foul trouble. Reese took over, getting season highs in scoring (19 points) and on the boards (17 rebounds). 

It led to the first Pac-12 Player of the Week award of Reese’s career.  It also made Arizona the first team to have won multiple Players of the Week honors this season. McDonald won after the Wildcats beat Texas in Week Two.

Holly Winterburn

Oregon’s Holly Winterburn came from halfway around the world to join the Ducks. In international play, she was used to averaging double-digit points for her native England. She just hasn’t gotten the chance to show what she’s made of in the States. It’s one drawback to being on a top team.

There were no drawbacks when Oregon faced South Dakota State. Winterburn went 5-for-7 from the field and scored in double figures for the first time since arriving in Eugene.

Winterburn shot 71.4 percent on her way to 17 points in the Ducks’ only game of the week. All of her shots came from beyond the arc. It was enough to get the Pac-12 Freshman of the Week nod from the media in the local markets.

—Up Next—

 

Pacific (6-2) at No. 10 UCLA (8-0)
When: Sunday, Dec. 15 at 2 p.m. PT/3 p.m. MT
Streaming: UCLA Live Stream

The Bruins will play their final home game prior to Pac-12 play against the Tigers. For Pacific, it will be the second time they’ve faced a top-10 team from the Pac-12 this season.

The Tigers traveled to Corvallis as part of the preseason WNIT. They lost to the Beavers by 12 points. They didn’t lose again until their last outing when they were defeated by Cal State Bakersfield.

Will Pacific be able to pull off the big upset and knock UCLA out of the top 10 less than a week after they got there?


 

Ohio State (6-3) at No. 1 Stanford (8-0)
When: Sunday, Dec. 15 at 5:30 p.m. PT/6:30 p.m. MT
TV: Pac-12 Networks

Ohio State had one of the big upsets of the young season when the Buckeyes defeated then-No. 2 Louisville last week. In their first game after beating Oregon and knocking the Ducks out of the No. 1 spot in both polls, the Cardinals weren’t able to deal with the shooting or the defense of the Buckeyes.

The Buckeyes are receiving a few votes in each major poll. They also sit at No. 12 in the current RPI.

Stanford is undefeated and sitting at the top of the polls, but they’ve shown some vulnerability. An overtime win over No. 17 Gonzaga and a too-close-for-comfort game against California Baptist in the Greater Victoria Invitational both showed the youth of the Cardinal.

There’s every reason to believe that the young Stanford team will defeat the young Ohio State team, but no one should ever feel too safe.




—Recent Kim Doss Stories—