March 2, 2023
Sights and sounds from Pac-12 Tournament, Day 1
'You're learning to play deep into March'
LAS VEGAS — It is a rare thing to see Kelly Graves’ Oregon Ducks play so soon in the Pac-12 Tournament, which began on Wednesday. But Endyia Rogers guaranteed her Ducks would get a chance to play on, and keep their NCAA hopes alive, with 28 points in a 52-50 win over Washington.
What else stood out on an eventful Day 1 in Las Vegas?
Pac-12 Game of the day: Washington vs Oregon
It was a great back and forth game with both teams having a lot to prove. Plus, it had a standout performance by Rogers.
Pac-12 Moment of the Day
Bendu Yeaney’s block of Destiny Littleton midway through the fourth quarter of Oregon State’s win over USC. It was a huge moment play that helped propel the Beavers to the upset win.
Pac-12 Quote of the Day
Te-Hina PaoPao on her teammate Endyia Rogers performance, “She was hooping. She was hooping.”
Pac-12 Game 1: #5 UCLA defeats #12 Arizona State, 81-70 in OT
Summary: UCLA held a 19-point lead with 5 minutes remaining in the third before ASU finished the game on a 31 to 12 run to force overtime. In the extra period, Charisma Osborne scored eight points and grabbed two clutch steals to help the Bruins dominate the OT period, giving UCLA the win, 81-70. Emily Bessoir knocked down five threes, including two in OT, scoring 17 to lead the Bruins while Tyi Skinner had 26 points for the Sun Devils.
Thoughts on UCLA: UCLA has relied heavily on the freshman all year with all four of them playing major minutes. However, when the game got tough, the upperclassmen stepped up for the Bruins. Charisma Osborne showed why she is a potential first round pick in this upcoming WNBA draft. She scored half her points in the overtime and played phenomenal defense on Tyi Skinner, forcing two huge steals. Emily Bessoir has greatly improved this year as well. She missed all of last year with an injury but has returned this year and has been huge for the Bruins this year. She led them in scoring with 17 and knocked down two huge threes in the overtime. Her ability to stretch the floor from the forward position has been so valuable for UCLA. With all the freshman that play for UCLA, the Bruins have had times this season where they struggle to score and go through big stretches of lulls. They had another in the fourth quarter, scoring just six points and it almost cost them the game. Kiki Rice came up with a few big plays down the stretch though, scoring the game tying basket and blocking Jaddan Simmons game winning attempt as the buzzer sounded. Rice has lived up to the hype this season as one of the top freshmen in the country. She has an incredible basketball IQ and makes a ton of high-level plays for a freshman. The Bruins also got scoring from every player on their roster, showing their depth in an important postseason game. The Bruins were without freshman Lina Sontag who was out with a non-covid illness.
“I think that’s what the game is all about,” said UCLA head coach Cori Close. “I love that you picked that out, plus 27 on her plus/minus. It’s not about what you do for yourself. It’s about what you do to help us win more possessions. That’s what I’ve been saying about Charisma all year, is that people will point to a lot of different things that she can do and she has a lot of different skills, but bottom line is our team gets more stops and our team gets more scores, period.”
Thoughts on ASU: The Sun Devils have had a tough go of it in Natasha Adair’s first season. However, you wouldn’t have known it looking at their performance against UCLA. The Sun Devils fell down 19 before making a big comeback during the third and fourth quarter. They played stout defense in the fourth and continued to battle despite being down big. Their offense was sparked by Tyi Skinner who was the second leading scorer in Pac-12 during the regular season. She had 26 points, including nine in the fourth quarter. Despite her 5’5 frame, Skinner plays with a lot of grit and swagger. She hit a three to give ASU their only lead of the game late in the fourth quarter. Arizona State also got a great performance from Jaddan Simmons. She scored 17 points and was key in ASU’s run to take the lead with her 10 rebounds. The Sun Devils showed a lot of energy during the comeback, playing with a lot of grit and fought all the way to the end.
“I think for us just, one, to get healthy; and for, two, for us to just continue to get better as a team,” said ASU coach Natasha Adair. “But we have so many moments where we can refer to what we did well and then moments where we want to continue to grow. But just who we are and creating our culture and our identity coming out of year one I watched our team come together. You learn a lot about people in adversity. I learned a lot about these special young women on our team and to my right and to my left. This is what you see now, but this is not the future of ASU women’s basketball.”
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Pac-12 Game 2: #9 Oregon defeats #8 Washington, 52-50
Summary: It was battle from start to finish with neither team ever leading by more than eight points. Washington took a seven-point lead with 7:19 remaining in the game but Oregon responded with a 9-0 run to take the lead. The teams traded baskets the rest of the way but the Ducks came up with some key stops including on what would have been the game winning three as the clock expired and held on for the 52-50 win. Endyia Rogers scored 28 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter, and grabbed 11 rebounds to lead the Ducks.
Thoughts on Washington: The Huskies brought their stout defense to this first round matchup of NCAA tournament bubble teams. Washington had the fourth ranked defense in the Pac-12 this year and it showed up in this game, holding the Ducks to 52 points on 35% shooting. The Huskies held Oregon to just two players in double figures but one of them was Endyia Rogers who had 28. Offensively, Washington got great play from Dalayah Daniels and Hannah Stines. Daniels has greatly improved this year after transferring from Cal to Washington, leading the Huskies in Points and Rebounding. She had another double-double today and gave trouble to the 6’8 Philipina Kyei. Stines came on strong in the fourth quarter, trading baskets with Rogers late in the game. The freshman guard scored seven straight points for the Huskies in the final three minute, going toe to toe with the senior for Oregon. The Huskies fell down nine early in this game but did a great job of fighting back. They led by as many as eight at one point and went on a 13-0 run during this game. The Huskies have struggled at times this year on offense but when they find it, they are deadly. The Huskies are most likely bound for the WNIT and could use a deep run to springboard a strong season next year.
“I think this is a team that was fighting to get into the NCAA tournament,” said Washington head coach Tina Langley. “So we’ve had some really good moments. We’ve played our best basketball late. I obviously have had the opportunity to play in the NIT and I think there’s a lot of teams in that tournament that are really special that have won their conferences that have battled and have great résumés. So it’s very similar in that it’s an incredible competition. You’re learning to play in post-season, in tournament. You’re learning to play deep into March. It’s been a little bit since we’ve been in postseason and so I think it’s important that we get back there.”
Thoughts on Oregon: Rogers was outstanding today. She scored 28 points in a ton of different ways. She got to the rim, she hit two threes and she cooked in the midrange. In the fourth quarter, she scored 10 points on 5-6 shooting from the field. She scored six straight points for the Ducks when she was going back and forth with Hannah Stines. All six came with under three minutes left, including the game winning layup with 1:28 remaining. Rogers scored her first basket of the fourth off a curl cut play for Oregon. The Ducks ran that play three to four more times in the quarter with Rogers scoring multiple buckets on that play. She basically won the game for the Ducks. Oregon did get Grace VanSlooten back from injury which is huge for them. She was on a minute’s restriction but gives them a great boost of the bench. Te-Hina PaoPao had 13 big points for Oregon, including the three that put them back on top for good. The Duck defense also came up with some big stops in the final minute and grabbed a big offensive rebound that helped seal the game for them.
“Well, you know, you’re not doing your job as a coach if you’ve got somebody that’s riding a hot hand, and we have full confidence in Endyia that she’s going to either make the play for herself or make the right play for someone else,” said Oregon head coach Kelly Graves. “Endyia’s performance tonight, and I’ve seen some really good ones in this conference tournament, was as good as I’ve seen, and I’m really proud of her.”
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Pac-12 Game 3: #7 Washington State defeats #10 California, 61-49
Summary: It was a tale of two halves between the Bears and the Cougars. Cal won the first half 27-21 but WSU dominated the second half, outscoring Cal 40-22 in the final 20 minutes. The Cougars shot 60% in the second half and held Cal to just 32% in the final two quarters. Charlisse Leger Walker poured in 23 points and Bella Murekatete grabbed her eighth double-double of the season.
Thoughts on WSU: Charlisse Leger-Walker is one of the best players in the country and showed it against Cal. She scored 23 on 8-for-15 shooting. While she had a good performance, it felt quiet by her standards. She got to the basket, hit her trademark turnaround jump shot and hit a big three in the third but never fully took over the game. The Cougars big difference was the offense they found in the second half. They got a balanced scoring attack in that second half with both Leger-Walker and Bella Murekatete scoring in double figures in the final 20. They also turned up the defense in the second half, limiting Cal’s starters to just 6-for-20 in the half. The first half wasn’t very pretty for the Cougars. They couldn’t get any sort of offensive rhythm and let the Cal ball pressure get to them. They also massively struggled from three, hitting just two for the game, which is a season low. The Cougars are going to need a much better offensive showing throughout the whole game if they want to compete with Utah tomorrow. This win did give the Cougars their first ever 20-win season in the NCAA era. Camie Ethridge continues to take Washington State to new heights year after year.
“I think coming out in the second half and having the sets and just kind of spreading the floor and moving the ball a lot more, getting good looks, seeing what they’re doing on the on-ball screens, if they’re switching, and really punishing them for their defensive schemes if they were switching,” said Washington State junior guard Charlisse Leger-Walker. “I think that in itself and just getting to the rim and finishing the shots. I think we had some great looks in the first half. They just didn’t drop. Overall 2-for-19 three-point attempts, like that’s obviously something we need to tidy up and clean up and it’s the first game of the tournament and obviously they didn’t even shoot that well either. I think that’s just kind of how it goes.”
Thoughts on Cal: The Bears played another game similar to a lot of their Pac-12 losses. They were very strong in the first half, playing phenomenal defense and getting offensive contributions from throughout their roster. Their bench was the star today as the Bear reserves scored 22 points. 10 of those came from Mia Mastrov, who has an outstanding first half. She averages 2.5 points per game this season, but put up eight in the first half. She did a great job of taking advantage of what Washington State gave her and being aggressive attacking the basket. The Bears starters not named Jayda Curry really struggled. Curry did what she always does, scoring 16 on 6-for-11 shooting and making yet another three. It was Cal’s other starters that didn’t deliver. The four of them shot a combined 4-for-23 for the game. That is not going to get it done in a tournament setting. The Bears led for 25 of the 40 minutes of the game. This is almost identical to a lot of Cal losses this season where they lead or trail by small margins late in games against good teams and then can’t close the game out. Cal has talent but needs to find ways to grow as a player to better close out games in Pac-12 play.
“I mean, what I think today is going to be different than what I think in April,” said Cal coach Charmin Smith. “But I just want it more for this group. We work so hard, we do. We work so hard and they, they’re great young women. I just, I want them to be the ones that are happy jumping up and down celebrating. I love this group. I really love coaching this team. I know that we’re making steps. I’ve said, like this team that we have right now would murder last year’s team. We’re so much better, and next year we’ll be even better. Just keep building it and stay with the process here.”
Pac-12 Game 4: #11 Oregon State defeats #6 USC, 56-48
Summary: USC took an eight-point lead with 7:11 remaining in the game and then the game flipped. Oregon State finished the game on a 21-5 run to pull off the upset, 56-48. Pac-12 Freshman of the Year Raegan Beers scored 18 and grabbed nine boards and fellow freshman Adlee Blacklock scored 15 with six rebounds.
Thoughts on USC: The Trojans played very stagnant basketball on the offensive end. They shot a lot of misguided shots and really didn’t look like the team that greatly improved this season. The team shot just 29% from the field and on multiple occasions, the offense stagnated, and Destiny Littleton ended up chucking up a three. She shot 3-for-15 from the floor and 2-for-11 from deep. USC needs her to be more efficient and make better decisions if they want to prove this game was a fluke when the NCAA tournament comes around. The one bright spot on offense for USC was Kadi Sissoko. She had 16 points and was doing a good job attacking in transition, scoring a couple of rim runners late in the third. USC’s defense was where it always is, they held Oregon State to 56 points on 32% shooting. They made more field goals, more threes and forced fifteen turnovers. The defense played well enough to win them this game, it was the offense that let them down tonight.
“I just think we have to look back at this game and do some soul searching and figure out who we want to be in the tournament. I wholeheartedly believe that we do have more basketball to go. I think in particular this game we were playing like individuals too much of the game and it came back to bite us,” said senior guard Destiny Littleton.
Head Coach Lindsay Gottlieb added, “that’s my job to get us ready to do that. I thought we practiced well coming into this game. Then we get to the game and we didn’t do the things that we intended to do. That translation from practice to the game is my job to hold ’em accountable to that. That’s what we have to do.”
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Thoughts on Oregon State: The Beavers have struggled this year, relying on a lot of freshmen. The had relied heavily on Talia von Oelhoffen but she is out for the rest of the season with an injury. The Beavers broke a nine-game losing streak with the win over Arizona on senior day and the confidence carried over to the tournament. The freshman for Oregon State are really good and the two who showed up in this game were Reagan Beers and Adlee Blacklock. Beers, the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, scored 18 points and grabbed nine rebounds. She was dominant down low, using her size to out muscle USC defenders. Blacklock hit all three of the Beavers three’s, including one that cut the USC lead to three. Afterwards, she waved her arms to fire up the crowd. Bendu Yeaney was also great. While she only scored three points, she added eight assists and a huge block on Destiny Littleton in transition during the fourth quarter. The Beavers showed their grit and toughness going on the 21-5 run to close the game. You wouldn’t think it was a team that had just ended a nine-game losing streak.
“You could just see the belief that this team has,” said Oregon State head coach Scott Rueck. “They care about each other. They have never really hung their heads for more than a few hours after our losses. We’ve practiced well all year. That character has carried into the end of this third season of this year, non-conference, regular season, and then post-season. Here we are competing and playing our best right now, which is fantastic to see, fantastic to watch as their coach. I’m just so proud of them and happy for them to watch them rise on this stage tonight and find a way to pull out a game. Down eight in the fourth and then to win by eight, that just speaks to the character and the fact that this team’s learned how to finish games.”
Written by Matthew Walter
Matthew Walter covers the Las Vegas Aces, the Pac-12 and the WCC for the Next. He is a former Director of Basketball Operations and Video Coordinator at three different Division I women's basketball programs.