Oregon Basketball

Preview: Mississippi State

December 17, 2018

I hope everyone enjoyed Oregon’s bountiful recruiting weekend as much as I have, and judging by how active the ScoopDuck forums have been, I’d say we all are. It’s been a great weekend, and even though I live in Massachusetts, I’ve been staying up as late as can be to keep close updates on each recruit.

But, with the football program winning on and off the court, the Women’s Basketball program needs a huge win on the court tomorrow. #7 Oregon takes on #4 Mississippi State this Tuesday at Matthew Knight Arena at 7 PM PT on ESPN 2. For those of you who have been following along this year, Oregon has been “meh” so far. There have been some great wins where everything has come together, and then the loss to Michigan State where things didn’t go so well.

But, Oregon can make up some serious ground, and prove to everyone in the country that the loss to MSU was a fluke, and that this team means business.

So, I’ve yet to do a preview for the Women’s team, as most of the games have not been as prolific, and I was not on the ScoopDuck staff prior to the Syracuse game. But, the layout of this article will be pretty simple, I’ll label the strengths of Mississippi State and give my two cents on how Oregon can come out on top.

Mississippi State comes into tomorrow’s game a perfect 10-0 playing some good competition. State has won their last two games over ranked teams in Texas and Marquette, ranked 12th and 19th respectively. Oregon has one ranked win, over then #12 Syracuse in Matthew Knight, with Mississippi State beating Texas in Austin. Mississippi State has dominated most of their games, and won by a large margin. State has a high powered offense, averaging 92.3 PPG, similar to that of Oregon, and is outscoring opponents by an average margin of 42 points. Yikes! State is not all just offense though, as they rebound effectively (46.8 rebounds per game), and play great defense. State averages 9.3 steals per game and 7.6 blocks per game, which are some staggering numbers if you ask me.

Mississippi State’s leader is superstar Teaira McCowan, who stands 6-foot-7 and averages 18.6 PPG, 12.8 RPG and 2.8 blocks per game. The senior is a dominant center, and someone who meets very little resistance on the low block because of her size and skill. State does run some similarities to Oregon, as two of their best players run on the low block, with Anriel Howard averaging 14.7 PPG and 8.6 RPG. Anriel is shorter of the two, standing just 5-foot-11. But the height for State doesn’t stop there. Chloe Bibby, who stands 6-foot-1 is a modern stretch four, as she drills over 50-percent of her threes on the year. Bibby’s rebounding is lacking, but it will be imperative to keep an eye out for her along the perimeter.

So, how does Oregon win? The last two games Oregon’s play has been lackluster at it’s finest. Oregon loves to shoot threes, and they are a fantastic shooting team, but if the three’s don’t fall, the Ducks lose rhythm.

Now, Oregon loves to play at Matthew Knight, just like most Oregon teams, home field/court advantage is real. Oregon has shot 58.8% from the field their last three home games, but have only shot 46.2% on the road. This already is such a huge advantage to the Ducks, but, if they want to win, the shots have to start falling. Each open look from the corner or top of the key must go down. I think Erin Boley could be a huge factor in the game, as she is the streakiest of the Oregon players. When she’s hot, she can easily drain 5 to 7 three pointers a game, maybe even more, but, when she’s cold, she’ll be lucky to hit 3. Getting Boley involved early could be crucial to the outcome to this game.

To go along side with hitting open shots, Oregon should look to play inside out. Yes, I know what you’re thinking, Mississippi State’s size far exceeds Oregon’s, and yes, it kind of does. McCowan towers over Hebard and Bibby is two inches taller than Sabally, but, it’s not like Oregon won’t be up to the task. Hebard is a fantastic finisher in traffic, and displays an innate ability to find the open teammate along the perimeter or cutting to the rim. Sabally can really stretch their defense out, and has the ability to put the ball on the floor and drive past people. Ionescu has such a natural basketball mindset that she can cut to the perfect spot on the floor and take the shot, or get the defense to crash and kick it out to a teammate in the corner.

I wonder if Graves could implement a small-ball type of lineup with Sabally at the center position against McCowan. Yes, defensively it would be an issue, but Mississippi State isn’t a great perimeter shooting team. I’ve already talked about Bibby’s perimeter shooting, but their next leading three point shooter (with a minimum of 15 3’s attempted) is 35%. As a team, they shoot 37.7%. Are those scary numbers to you? If Oregon were to run a small lineup on defense, a double team down low probably wouldn’t hurt you as much. And on offense, getting McCowan out on the perimeter would allow Sabally, Ionescu and others to attack and get to the rim. Mississippi State averages 15.5 fouls per game, compared to Oregon’s 11.6 fouls, State could struggle to defend the drive if their center is forced to hang out on the perimeter.

Lastly, Oregon needs to rebound in order to win this game. I may be old school, but like I’ve said before, I think one of the keys to winning is defense and rebounding. The guards (not named Ionescu) to crash on the defensive side and rebound. McCowan and Hebard should be a battle down low, but, and loose ball has to be Oregon’s. The less pain possessions State gets, the better. As for the defensive side of the ball, Oregon could potentially run a zone defense, to assist Hebard down low, and force them to shoot from three. If they get burned, which I don’t anticipate happening, then man to man it is. I truly think an auto double team whenever McCowan touches the ball is the way to win.

Final Prediction:

Oregon wins, 84-77 in a hard fought game.

I’ll be running a gamer, so make sure to keep a lookout. This game will also air on ESPN 2 at 7 PM PST. 

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