College

Pilot women lose, gain momentum

No. 10 Gonzaga pulls away for 56-42 win, but UP eyes tourney upset
By Cliff Pfenning, oregonsports.com

PORTLAND - A loud, often raucous crowd set the stage for a huge, memorable win Saturday for the University of Portland women's basketball program, and it did it's part for most of three quarters.

Senior guard Kate Andersen, honored prior to the game, even hit a three-point shot at the first quarter buzzer to tie the game at 11.

But, tenth-ranked Gonzaga had too much inside firepower and pulled away from a 40-35 edge after three quarters for a 56-42 victory before an announced crowd of 1,709 fans at the Chiles Center.

Gonzaga junior forwards Jenn and LeeAnne Wirth combined for 28 pooints and 17 rebounds to send the Zags, who had more than 100 fans themselves, into the West Coast Conference Tournament as the No.1 seed. Gonzaga is 28-2 overall and 17-1 in WCC games.

Portland enters the tournament that begins in Las Vegas on Thursday as the fifth seed at 18-11, 11-7. The Pilots, who lost their contest at Gonzaga by 10 points earlier in the season, won just seven games two seasons ago.

"This has been a great season for our girls and our fans to build support for the program," first-year coach Michael Meek said afterward. "This is an easy team to get behind because of how our players perform, and the effort they put out."

Andersen led the Pilots with 10 points, and sophomore Haylee Andrews had 10 points and 10 rebounds. The Pilots were hammered by turnovers, though, commiting 21 in the game, including 10 in the fourth quarter when they were outscored 16-7.

Gonzaga held a 12-5 edge in second chance points and 14-2 in bench scoring.

First round WCC tournament pairings have yet to be announced, but Andrews said the Pilots would take Saturday's loss as a significant learning tool if they are able to meet Gonzaga again.

"We're definitely be looking at a lot of film, looking to see what we can do to beat them," said Andrews, who was the WCC Player of the Week three times this season. "They're No. 10 for a reason, but we're going to go into the tournament with the thinking we can beat them."

 

 

 

Oregon finally overcomes

No. 14 Ducks end three-game skid to Oregon State
Staff Report

The Oregon men's basketball team got back on track - in-state anyway - with its drive to own the Pac-12 Conference Thursday by beating Oregon State, 69-54, at Matthew Night Arena in Eugene.

It wasn't a surprise as Oregon entered ranked No. 14, while Oregon State entered just above .500. But, the Beavers had won the past three contests with the Ducks, including a 63-53 decision at Gill Coliseum earlier in the month. Hot shooting in the second half, though, helped Oregon pull away and end that particular skid on the way to moving back atop the conference standings.

Oregon improved to 22-7 overall, 11-5 in conference games, and into a tie with UCLA for the PAc-12 lead. The Ducks have home games with California and Stanford next week to round out the regular season.

Oregon State dropped to 15-13, 5-11 with home games against Stanford and Cal next week.

Senior Payton Pritchard, as he has nearly the entire season, led Oregon with 23 points, including 15 in the second half. Will Richardson added 15 points and Anthony Mathis had 13 for Oregon, which led just 29-25 at the half.

Ethan Thompson and Tres Tinkle combined for 29 points to lead the Beavers, who hit six of 20 3-point shots. Oregon hit 11 of 23 - 5-of-9 by Pritchard.

 

Lady Pilots on verge of breakthrough

UP women's basketball eyes home upset of No. 10 Gonzaga
By Cliff Pfenning

For a change, the University of Portland women's basketball program might get a little attention in-state this weekend.

Especially if it can pull off an upset on its home court.

The Pilots enter their final game of the season with a four-game win streak and a potential large, rowdy crowd to back up its effort against No. 10 Gonzaga at the Chiles Center.

Portland is 18-10 overall, including a 69-49 win over San Francisco played two weeks ago before a crowd of 1,772 at the Chiles Center, and 11-6 in West Coast Conference games. The Pilots are familiar with playing before home crowds of around 500 fans throughout the season, but the team's success - already securing its first winning record in 10 seasons - has some buzz on the campus.

The Pilots, who will be seeded no worse than fourth in the WCC Tournament that plays out next week in Las Vegas, have not finished more than five games above .500 since 1998. Perhaps, even better, the team only has one senior, and features several key freshmen under first-yaer head coach Michael Meek.

After the large crowd two weeks ago, the athletic department is hoping for an even larger crowd, especially with the potential for a program-building upset in the air - against the conference's top villain (even if that's a moniker largely generated by the men's basketball team).

Gonzaga enters the game at 27-2, 16-1 and with a 62-57 win over the Pilots in Spokane, Wash., on Dec. 29 when it was ranked No. 17.

Game time is set for 2 p.m.

 

PORTLAND PILOTS WOMEN'S BASKETBALL

2020 - 18-10 / 11-6 WCC

2019 - 13-17 / 5-13 WCC

2018 -  7-23 /  3-15 WCC

2017 -  6-24 /  4-14 WCC

2016 -  3-23 /  1-17 WCC

2015 -  4-26 /  2-16 WCC

 

Umpqua ready for tourney run again

The RiverHawks are unbeaten and largely untested
By Cliff Pfenning

Maybe this is the year the Umpqua RiverHawks get back on top.

Twenty years after the school's last title, the women's basketball team enters the final two weekends of the season unbeaten and with only a handful of games that have ended with wins of fewer than 10 points. It should figure that way, though, after the team played to runner-up finishes in the 2018 and '19 Northwest Athletic Conference tournaments.

Umpqua is ranked No. 1 this season, and just came off its toughest outing of the season - an 84-81 win over Mt. Hood in Gresham. That was three days after a 70-62 win over visiting Linn-Benton of Albany. Prior to that, though, the team won all but two games by at least 13 points (one was 70-65 over Mt. Hood on a neutral court, Dec. 29). 

RiverHawks coach Dave Stricklin guided the program to tournament titles in 1997 and 2000, but the program fell one win short the past two seasons. With a solid returning crew of sophomores led by 5-foot-11 forward Darian Mitchell, Umpqua is dazzling recruiters.

http://oregonsports1agirlsbasketball.blogspot.com/

 

Ducks lead in-state title threats

Oregon's women have been at the top of the nation all season
By Cliff Pfenning, Publisher

It's getting to be a trend in Eugene that one of the town's two college teams is a threat to win its national title. This year is no different.

Both teams at the University of Oregon are ranked in th Top 15, and the UO women have fallen only as low as fourth after starting the season at No. 1. With a Final Four run in their pocket from 2019, the Ducks are again right in the mix of teams considered top contenders for this year's title. They're likely to not even need to leave the state in order to earn a Final Four spot as one of the four regional tournaments will be played in Portland.

They've likely already clinched a spot among the 16 teams that will play host to first- and second-round games.

The women's Final Four will be played in New Orleans, April 3 and 5.

Oregon's men moved to 14th Monday after sweeping a pair of home games over the weekend. With three weeks left in the regular season, the Ducks are tied for the Pac-12 standings lead. The men's Final Four will be played April 4 and 6 in Atlanta.

Among the other in-state tournament title contenders, Eastern Oregon's women and Northwest Christian's women stand out in the NAIA Div. II ranks, and Linfield's men's team stands out in the NCAA Div. III ranks.

Eastern and NWC are tied for the Cascade Conference lead heading into the regular-season finale for both teams Saturday in Eugene.

Linfield is 18-5 overall and 12-2 and in third place in the Northwest Conference. The Wildcats, though, play the two teams ahead of them in the standings, Whitman and Whitworth, this weekend.

Also, Oregon State's women have been ranked in the Top 25 and are among the teams that might qualify to host the first and second rounds, although they've got some work to do in the closing weeks of the season. The Pac-12 entered the week with 

 

DUCKS CLOBBER UCONN ON THE ROAD

Third-ranked and on a roll.

The Oregon Ducks started the women's basketball season ranked No. 1, and inspite of a couple losses, have remained one of the teams to beat for the national championship. They showed that off Monday afternoon by hammering No. 4 Connecticut 74-56 in Storrs, Conn., in a game televised on ESPN2.

UConn's loss was its worst on its home court in program history.

Forward Ruthy Hebard scored 22 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to lead the Ducks, who had all five starters finish in double figures. Sabrina Ionescu had 10 points, nine assists and nine rebounds to power the team effort, which included outscoring the Huskies in all four quarters before a sold-out arena.

Satou Sabally had 17 points, Erin Boley had 13 and Minyon Moore finished with 12 points.

Oregon improved to 20-2 overall with home games against Arizona on Friday and Arizona State on Sunday. The Sun Devils handed the Ducks their lone Pac-12 loss in January.

UConn dropped to 19-2.

The Ducks remained behind Baylor and South Carolina in the AP and Coaches Poll. 

In the first "reveal" for the upcoming NCAA Tournament, Oregon was listed as the West Region's top team, which includes playing host to the opening two rounds. The Regional Final Four is set for Portland, March 28 and 30th.

The Final Four will be played in New Orleans in April.

https://youtu.be/_0dWp1mqG2E

 

Concordia plans ride into sunset

The Portland school announced Monday it will close in spring
By Cliff Pfenning, Publisher

PORTLAND - Longtime soccer power Concordia University announced Monday it will close down its operations following the Spring semester.

The Board of Directors for the northeast Portland private school, founded in 1905, voted to close based on its finances and future prospects. The athletics department, which competes in the NCAA Div. II Great Northwest Athletic Conference, features 13 men's and women's teams in eight sports.

The school has not announced what plans it has for spring sports teams, with both baseball and softball squads having begun play this past week. The men's basketball team is 3-19 overall with six games left on its schedule. The women's team is 4-18 with six games left.

Concordia's softball team won he GNAC championship last year.

Men's soccer coach Dan Birkey and women's soccer coach Grant Landy have been with the school for 32 and 23 years respectively. 

The school hired athletic directror Matt Martin in November.

The GNAC also features Western Oregon University.

 

 

Defense will tell story of Ducks playoff options

Oregon needs to impress CFP voters to get a spot
By Cliff Pfenning

Offense wins games. Defense wins championships. This is what University of Oregon football fans should focus on for the final month of the season as the LSU at Alabama is set to play out Saturday.

With Oregon placed at No. 7 in the first College Football Playoff rankings, winning out the final four games might seem to guarantee a spot in the Final Four due to so many teams ahead of it playing each other. Only three teams have a chance at going unbeaten and if the Ducks end up with one loss and the Pac-12 title, they should be a natural pick for that honor.

But, the selection committee is going to look at the actual resume of the teams involved, and the loser of Saturday’s game might be a more logical choice for the fourth CFP spot, simply because they might be a better team, at least to the naked eye. This is where defense comes in.

Oregon can score points. That’s not a question. But, keeping the opponent out of the end zone is where the Ducks will make the biggest impression in the next month. They absolutely need to destroy their remaining opponents: Arizona, Arizona State and Oregon State on defense. And, beat Utah. This is the way to pump up the Oregon resume and put some major pressure on the CFP voters to offer the West Coast at least a chance to win the title. Remember the Ducks are really just a few inches away - a fourth down on Auburn’s final drive - from being unbeaten. (Auburn, which lost 23-20 at LSU two weeks ago, plays Alabama at the close of the regular season and can be a wrench in this whole argument for a second time).

Oregon’s defense has been up to the challenge for most of the season, especially on Saturday even with giving up 24 points. The dominance of the USC offense as the game went on was huge in the outcome, regardless of the 56 points put up on the scoreboard. The Ducks need to ratchet that performance up a couple notches - and not just focus on winning. But, complete dominance, even after possibly trailing due to a first-quarter score (the Ducks have trailed in the first quarter or first half of its past three games, allowing an average of 32 points per game over that stretch. They need to do much better for the CFP to come calling. 

The CFP voters aren’t going to look at a record so much as it’s belief in a team being able to win. I’d be doing that, too, and currently don’t think the Ducks are a top-four team. Even with the current eight-game win streak, I felt that way throughout the Auburn game - notably with the Tigers starting a true freshman. Auburn won the game at the end with an 18-year-old making plays. The Ducks started a senior and didn’t make the key plays. But, that’s changed as the season has progressed, including a game-winning drive in the final minute to beat Washington State.

The final four weeks - a blowout in the Pac-12 final - will do a lot to convince me they can beat Alabama or Clemson or Ohio State, and that’s what will get the votes to actually have that chance. 

And, the defense is the key to that.

 

 

Ducks start as Preseason favorites

Oregon's women are No. 1, men at No. 17
By Cliff Pfenning, Publisher

The Oregon basketball program has been improving in quality on an annual basis, but this season may be one of the finest for the combined men's and women's teams, at least according to Sports Illustrated magazine and it's preseason rankings.

Oregon starts out as No. 1 in the women's rankings, while the men are at No. 17. Only Maryland and Baylor have a women's team in the Top 10 and men's team in the Top 25. Baylor is No. 2 and 18, while Maryland is No. 5 and 7.

The Ducks are coming off perhaps their best post-season run with the women's team reaching the Final Four and the men's team getting to the Sweet 16. Only the 2017 tournament was better for the program as the men reached the Final Four, while the women played into the Elite 8.

Could this be the year for a national champion in Eugene?

Both teams are coming off Pac-12 Tournament titles.

The women open their season No. 11 with a home game against Northeastern.

The men's team, led by four-year starter Payton Pritchard, open Nov. 5 against Fresno State, and play No. 16 Memphis in Portland, Nov. 12.

 

Oregon plays way right out of huge win

The Ducks are getting good at losing big games, too
By Cliff Pfenning

Following the Oregon football team’s season-opener against Auburn via radio in Central Oregon Saturday, the game played out as one fans have come to expect these days - the Ducks worked their way into a gut-wrenching loss.

And, it was gut-wrenching in terms of how they lost - they were right on the cusp of a huge win on a national stage, one that would have signaled the program is back as a elite-level power. But, that’s not where the propram is these days. 

Head coach Mario Cristobal deserves the credit for getting the program close to the elite level, but also the blame for just not being able to get there. But more than his game management, it’s his loyalty to offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo that’s a question mark on his program.

Oregon’s offense dictated the flow of games in its glory years. Not so Saturday night. Cristobal said as much after the loss in that Auburn’s defense kept quarterback Justin Herbert from throwing up the field. In fact, in one sequence, Herbert completed three consecutive passes, but they didn’t turn into 10 yards and the offense got stuffed on a fourth-down run that stopped what might have been a game-ending drive. 

The Ducks pretty-much gave up their running game in the second half, too, which just boggles the mind in that it was able to run in the first half, and just plain needs to be able to run to win big games in the future. Put that one on Cristobal and Arroyo. Oregon used to dictate games, and needs to again to get its fans into thinking these games will always turn into victories.

Beyond the coaches, though, it seemed like Herbert played his way out of the first round of the NFL Draft with such a spotty performance. The final score is all you have to look at to get that feel. Oregon’s senior quarterback lost to a freshman playing his first game. Bo Nix made the big plays that won the game not Herbert. Whatever you can think of that went wrong, Herbert had the shot at making them minor issues by converting a few more plays into successes. Instead, he fumbled while not handing the ball off in the first half, got called for intentional grounding in the second half, and the following possession took a 14-yard sack that stalled the drive that turned the ball over to Auburn for the game-winning drive.

Nix made the plays on the winning drive, including a dive for a first down that was measured in inches. Nix got beat in the scorebook by Herbert, but he won on the scoreboard and that’s what NFL scouts look at more than anything. Game leadership counts, and Herbert just has not had that in his career. He’s got 12 more games, including a bowl game, to change that and play his way back into the first round.

And, lastly, Oregon’s beloved play-by-play man Jerry Allen, might be at the end of his career, he made so many miscues during the game, including calling one long run moving from the 20 to the 10 to the 15 and then the five. It was had to know where the ball was on the field in stretches of the game. Hopefully, that won’t affect any more contests, and he’ll be calling the Ducks plays in a major bowl game in five months because the team will be playing in a major bowl game in five months.

 

 

Rutschman goes first to O's

OSU catcher gets the big payday
Staff Report

Oregon State catcher Adley Rutschman was selected by the Baltimore Orioles first overall Monday in the Major League Baseball Draft, earning him a signing bonus of $8.4 million.

Rutschman, who was named the Pac-12 Conference Player of the Year this season, helped the Beavers win the NCAA Championship as a sophomore, which led to three teammates being selected in the first round following the World Series. Longtime coach Pat Casey retired following the win.

Oregon State qualified for the NCAA Tournament this season, but lost in a regional this weekend.

In his junior season, Rutschman hit .411 with 17 home runs and 58 RBIs. He also set a single-season record with 76 walks, of which 26 were intentional - one coming with the bases loaded during the Corvallis Regional.

A native of Sherwood, Rutschman is the grandson of his namesake, who led Linfield College to three NAIA national titles in football as head coach. In 25 years with the school, he also coached the baseball team for 13 seasons.

Rutschman is the third OSU athlete to be selected first overall in his sport, following Heisman Trophy winner Terry Baker by the NFL's Los Angeles Rams in 1963, and soccer standout Danny Mwanga by the Philadelphia Union of the MLS in 2010.

 

 

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