Posted on December 18, 2019
It’s the last week of games for most Pac-12 teams before the holiday break and the charge into league play. After going 13-1 against a relatively light slate of opponents last week, several teams are challenging themselves at what some coaches consider a risky time of year.
“The scariest games that you can play are during finals or right before Christmas break,” Arizona head coach Adia Barnes said about her team’s upcoming game, “because everybody’s thinking about what time their flight’s leaving. That’s why I hate the games early. I prefer the games at seven at night because then they can’t leave till the next day.”
On the Court
The Wildcats were one of the teams that won their only game last week, but they’re also one who has kept the schedule easy going into the break. Most teams did that last week, but a few challenged themselves. Even more will be challenging themselves next week.
The best game of the week was probably No. 1 Stanford hosting Ohio State. Like the Cardinal, the Buckeyes are integrating a lot of talented freshmen. They had also already knocked off Louisville, which was ranked second at the time, and played the always-strong Connecticut Huskies tough.
The Cardinal are still short-handed with the biggest absence being senior DiJonai Carrington, but that’s giving some of their freshmen more time on the floor. Haley Jones made good use of that against the Buckeyes.
The freshman had 15 points, seven rebounds and six assists. Fellow freshman Fran Belibi led the game with eight rebounds.
The only significant criticism of both Jones and the Cardinal was turnovers. She had seven of the team’s 21 giveaways. Fortunately for them, Ohio State had 24. It was enough to walk away with the 71-52 victory, Win No. 1,100 for the Stanford program.
The only loss of the week was Utah dropping a seven-point game at home to Providence. The Friars came into the game at 7-1 and walked away with a 67-60 victory.
The Utes had solid quarters in the second and third, but a slow start and a late push by the Friars were ultimately the difference.
After falling behind by 15, Utah was able to take the one-point lead early in the fourth after outscoring Providence 21-8 in the third. It just wasn’t enough. The Friars came back and moved past the Utes down the stretch.
It was quite a showing for Ute freshman Lola Pendande, though. The Spanish forward had a double-double with 21 points and 10 rebounds.
The loss means that Utah head coach Lynne Roberts will have to wait for another day for her 300th career victory.
In the Rankings
The lack of games—especially challenging games—last week meant that the AP poll was almost exactly the same as it was the week before. The USA Today/WBCA poll had a few more deck chairs shuffling, but none of them were being used by Pac-12 teams.
It came down to the Pac-12 keeping its five ranked teams in the same spots as last week: Stanford (AP No. 1/USA Today No. 1), Oregon (3/3), Oregon State (4/4), UCLA (10/10) and Arizona (18/19). Colorado and Arizona State continued receiving votes from the media, and ASU also got a few nods from the coaches.
Players of the Week
It’s a rare week that Sabrina Ionescu can’t be considered for Player of the Week, but it was the 42nd double-double of her career that got the Oregon star the honor this week.
The No. 3 Ducks headed down to Long Beach State, and came away with the 81-45 victory. Their star came away with 21 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists and three steals.
It was a season high in points for Ionescu, and she moved into the program’s Top 10 for both rebounds (831) and steals (171). It was a strong field, too. There were 11 players nominated this week, the most of the young season. The only team that didn’t nominate a player for the award was Utah.
Freshman of the Week was an equally strong field this week. This group also included 11 nominations, with only Colorado not nominating a freshman. It was Stanford’s Jones who won her second award in three weeks after a strong performance against Ohio State.
Her line of 15 points, seven rebounds, a career-high six assists, two steals and one block was enough to raise her above the competition.
No. 23 Tennessee (8-1) at No. 1 Stanford (9-0)
When: Wednesday, Dec. 18 at 7:00 PT/8:00 MT
TV: Pac-12 Bay Area
Two of the blue bloods of women’s basketball meet up in Palo Alto. It’s what we’ve come to expect from the top teams in the women’s games. There are few who choose to go the easy route, which is why they can usually count on a good seed when the NCAA Tournament rolls around.
The Lady Vols have a new coach this year, but they haven’t skipped a beat. There’s probably more confidence in Knoxville this year than last. Kellie Harper has a history of success both as a former Tennessee player and her last coaching stop at Missouri State.
Harper has certainly gotten out to a great start at her alma mater, leading the team to an 8-1 record. The lone blemish on the Lady Vols’ record came against Texas.
As for the Cardinal, they had a couple of close calls earlier in the season. First, it was No. 17 Gonzaga who gave them a scare. Over the Thanksgiving weekend, California Baptist unexpectedly made Stanford wonder if they were going to be able to avoid the upset.
This will be the Cardinal’s second game since becoming No. 1. They will have to beat their third top-25 opponent in the last four games to maintain that ranking—then head off to face Texas in Austin later in the week.
No. 10 UCLA (9-0) at No. 12 Indiana (10-1)
When: Sunday, Dec. 22 at 9 a.m. PT/10 a.m. MT
TV: Big Ten Network
The Bruins hit the road earlier in the week to face the Georgia Bulldogs in Athens, but the match-up against the Hoosiers will be the more anticipated one.
Indiana has already faced three top-25 teams, two of which were ranked in the top 5. They won two of those games, including pulling off the upset over No. 5 South Carolina at the Paradise Jam. Their only loss came against then-No. 2 Baylor in the same tournament.
UCLA has faced a solid schedule, but nothing near the difficulty of their upcoming opponent. Her Hoop Stats, which maintains statistics and schedule comparisons for women’s basketball, has Indiana facing five teams in the Top 100 and beating four of them. In comparison, the Bruins have only two top-100 victories with their toughest opponent being Virginia.
The service rates Indiana No. 9 in offensive efficiency and No. 4 in defensive efficiency. The Bruins are rated No. 31 and No. 38 in the same categories. With the game being on the road, UCLA will need to pull out all the stops to get the victory.
—Kim Doss Stories—
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