December 14, 2020
Taylor Mikesell is a ‘perfect fit’ for the Oregon Ducks
“This is probably the first real rivalry game that I've had in college,” Mikesell said
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It was a new experience for Taylor Mikesell. A rivalry game between two highly-ranked squads located less than 50 miles from each other. She put her signature on the 106th meeting on the Oregon-Oregon State rivalry on Sunday as the Ducks dominated the Beavers on the way to a 79-59 victory.
“This is probably the first real rivalry game that I’ve had in college,” Mikesell said. “We didn’t really have one (at Maryland). So, just coming in here and knowing the heights of this game, I think it prepared all of us. We were amped up from the start and you can see that just how we opened up the game.”
Mikesell proved that she’s not going to shrink from a rivalry, even if it is against the No. 15 team in the country. Her 21 points against Oregon State came on the back of 5-for-8 shooting from the 3-point line (and beyond).
The explosion against the Beavers was more of the same for her. Mikesell is the No. 1 3-point shooter in the country among those who have at least 30 attempts, according to Her Hoop Stats. At 18-30 this season, she’s hitting 60 percent of those shots.
It was exactly what head coach Kelly Graves expected from her when he recruited the Maryland transfer. More importantly, it was evident that his team could find ways to use those skills to their best advantage.
That was something he had been looking for heading into the Ducks’ trip to Corvallis. Against Utah and Colorado in the opening week of Pac-12 play, the team won, but Mikesell went just 2-6 from beyond the arc.
“She’s a perfect fit for us,” Graves said on Friday. “Really shoots the ball. We haven’t been able to get her enough shots. We continue to try and find ways to do that.”
For Mikesell, the coaching staff having that kind of trust in her has led to an ease on the court.
“The confidence is coming from the coaching staff, as well,” Mikesell said. “So it just gives you the confidence to go out there and take the shots you practice a thousand times. And the little things you work on, just being able to use them in a game…just doesn’t allow any extra mental block when you’re out there.”
That confidence paid off early for Mikesell on Sunday. Just a minute and 20 seconds into the game, she hit her first 3. She had all five of them in the first half. It helped open the game for others, which is precisely what her coach had predicted two days earlier.
“It’s all part of the same puzzle,” Graves said. “You know, if they’re hugging her and they don’t leave her, that means there’s a lot of open court for (Te-Hina) Paopao and for (Erin) Boley and for our inside people to do their work.”
That puzzle fit together perfectly as Paopao had 22 points against the Beavers and went 4-for-5 from distance. On the inside, Nyara Sabally was taking advantage of the space with eight points of her own.
Despite the plethora of new faces, the Ducks worked together like a well-oiled machine. Twenty-five of their 31 made buckets were assisted, with eight of the 12 players dishing out at least once.
At 3-0 in the conference, it has put the Ducks in a position where they look like a team that can defend its Pac-12 title despite having No. 1 Stanford and No. 6 Arizona in the league. Doing that after losing three of the top eight WNBA draft picks would be no small feat, and it’s one that Mikesell will be integral to if they are to achieve it.
“You couldn’t have asked for a better situation for both of us,” Graves said. “I think we’re perfect for her as well. And once she gets it rolling, that’s the beauty of her, man. She can rack up three, four baskets in a short period of time and when it gets rolling, then it’s pretty fun to watch.”