The Oregon women’s basketball team, still 0-5, is going into their Sunday game against Denver with a total of seven available players, due to a recent flood of injuries. Their record alone is reason to fret, but on top of that they will have to play games shorthanded and hope that increased minutes won’t lead to more injuries.
“I think physically (playing with only seven players) is really hard for the body,” sophomore Jordan Loera said. “The score might not always go our way, but at the end of the game we want to say we played our hearts out, we played until the last buzzer. That’s just our main goal. Our bodies are going to be tired for sure but just pushing through that, we are kind of excited about it.”
Loera, due to the injuries, will be forced to start at a new position on Sunday, something that she has done twice already. The new position will be point guard, a job that is difficult even for experienced point guards in coach Paul Westhead’s fast-paced system.
“We moved things around,” Westhead said of players’ positions. “We played Jordan Loera at the one for practice and she responded very well. She jumped in and kind of saw the need, and she has been an all-purpose player, so it’s not like you’re a center and we’re going to make you a point guard. But it is a transition — playing point in my system is a difficult task.”
Loera’s ability to play the position will be pivotal in the outcome of the game. The offense that Westhead runs, when properly executed, is extremely effective. If it is not properly executed, as could be the case with a new point guard orchestrating the offense, it could fail miserably.
“My goal is just to fill whatever spot coach wants me to be at,” Loera said of playing point. “Just to work hard at every spot. I didn’t ask for any spot, it’s just wherever he wants me to be, so I’m going to work towards wherever he wants me to be.”
Even if Loera excels at point guard, the Ducks will still only be suiting up seven players due to a slew of injuries and Liz Brenner’s commitments to the Ducks’ volleyball team. Fatigue will most certainly become a factor and something that teams will likely exploit. Aside from injury, fouls could play a huge role in the outcome of games. A player fouling out would be devastating, but the Ducks can’t even afford foul trouble. Any situation where minutes are reduced for any of the seven players would be incredibly taxing on the shorthanded team.
“We’re going to have to be sensitive both on offense and on defense,” Westhead said of possible foul trouble. “I would say my sensitivity would be more defensive. We will be less likely to play full court defenses. We are not going to back off on our running game. We are going to get out and go because that’s how we score.”
Oregon will take on Denver on Sunday at 2 p.m. at Matthew Knight Arena.