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DUCKS HAVE SOME HOLES TO FILL.

Byline: Bob Rodman The Register-Guard

The bar has been raised again.

After a four-year absence from the NCAA women's basketball tournament, the Ducks went dancing.

And wallflowers they were not.

Oregon mustered the same moxie it used to fashion a 20-win season, to tie for second place in the Pac-10 Conference regular season, scramble into the Big Dance and then win a game there for the first time in six years.

But now what?

The heart and soul - as well as 46 percent of the points, 45 percent of the rebounds, 64 percent of the assists, 43 percent of the steals and 59 percent of the blocked shots - of this season's team are done being Ducks.

Cathrine Kraayeveld, Andrea Bills (both all-Pac-10 players) and Corrie Mizusawa (a two-time Pac-10 assists leader) led Oregon to a 21-10 record and an NCAA Tournament first-round win over Texas Christian.

Next season "we are going to be a team that lost two pretty important post players (Kraayeveld and Bills) and it is going to be hard to fill the shoes of (point guard) Corrie Mizusawa," Smith said.

The Ducks knew all that long ago. What they learned in the tournament's second-round loss to fifth-ranked Baylor was the value of speed.

"Against Baylor, we understood the importance of quickness and athleticism," Smith said in the aftermath of the 69-46 loss to the Big 12 Conference champion.

"We can't change overnight in terms of becoming an athletic team, but we can become better at defending against that quickness."

Her point was a simple one. The Ducks committed 24 turnovers in the loss to No. 2-seeded Baylor, and the Lady Bears scored 26 points off them.

On Oregon's recruiting priority list is quickness. Tamika Nurse, a 5-foot-10 guard from Hamilton, Ontario, signed to a national letter of intent last fall, is quick, Smith said.

"She can defend the ball, can create in terms of penetration but she has work to do on the range of her shot."

Quickness also returns. Brandi Davis, a senior with one more year of athletic eligibility because she was a partial qualifier at the time of her enrollment at Oregon, is the fastest UO player as well as ranking third on the all-time career three-pointer list with 145.

"You need quickness but you also have to have a player who builds on that quickness in terms of skill," Smith said. "I'm a big believer in quickness but when it's unharnessed without skill, that quickness can be lost."

Besides speeding up their game and solidifying their inside play hit hard by graduation, the Ducks must replace Mizusawa, who set a UO single-season record with 209 assists this year.

"We are going to be very young at the point guard position," Smith said. "... That is something we are going to have to develop."

Oregon's penchant for pounding the ball inside to exploit its power game will not change, Smith said.

Two reasons why are 6-2 Kristen Forristall and 6-3 Gabrielle Richards. As freshmen, the two averaged more than 18 and 16 minutes, respectively.

"Those two gave our program quite a lift," Smith said.

Eleanor Haring, who made the Pac-10 all-freshman team in 2003-04 but struggled as a sophomore this season, and Carolyn Ganes, a 6-3 junior who redshirted this season to fine-tune her game two years after being on the Pac-10 all-freshman team, return.

Chelsea Wagner, who was the team's leading three-point shooter when she was hurt on Jan. 13, and Kedzie Gunderson, who sat out this year but had started 47 of Oregon's 57 games in the two previous seasons, are scheduled to return from knee injuries.

Despite those ailments, the Ducks dodged the devastating injuries of the past two years. Last season, six players missed games, and Kraayeveld was sidelined with a knee injury for all but five games.

"This year," Smith said, "we had gas left in our tank at the end - winning at Cal (in the final Pac-10 regular-season game), beating the Arizona and Los Angeles schools with our backs to the wall and beating TCU (in the first round of the NCAA Tournament)."

But the tank needs a little filling now after being drained of Kraayeveld, Bills and Mizusawa.

"We have to keep focusing on having great inside play," Smith said, "but we must expand the perimeter game. We have to score from the perimeter. We must get better in that area."

Returning perimeter players - Davis, Wagner, Kaela Chapdelaine, Ashley Allen and Cicely Oaks - accounted for just 21 percent of Oregon's 2,030 points this season.

The Ducks, who had made eight consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances from 1994 through 2001, jumped into the 2004-05 season picked to finish fifth and sixth by the coaches and media polls, respectively, in the Pac-10.

Expectations will be up after the Ducks proved the prognosticators wrong.

"We are not going to worry about repeating or the expectations," said Smith, whose defense this season limited 19 opponents to 60 or fewer points.

With a 69-54 overall record, Smith - the only two-time All-American in UO history - rides toward her fifth and Oregon's 33rd season with two scholarships yet to offer.

One, Smith said, will be delivered to a post player that "we hope to sign in the spring." The other may be held by the Ducks until the fall signing session next November.

2004-2005 OREGON WOMEN'S BASKETBALL STATISTICS

Player GP-GS Min. FG-FGA Pct. 3P-3PA Pct. FT-FTA Pct. OR-DR Reb-Avg. PF A TO Blk S Pts Avg.

Cathrine Kraayeveld 30-30 32.5 156-343 .455 40-110 .364 90-117 .769 67-182 249-8.3 43 53 95 37 35 442 14.7

Andrea Bills 31-31 25.0 144-281 .512 0-3 .000 68-125 .544 86-130 216-7.0 76 36 60 28 27 356 11.5

Chelsea Wagner 15-15 23.5 40-107 .374 37-92 .402 15-18 .833 8-18 26-1.7 30 13 16 1 17 132 8.8

Brandi Davis 30-11 16.9 85-227 .374 48-142 .338 11-18 .611 4-49 53-1.8 37 25 36 4 15 229 7.6

Gabrielle Richards 31-0 16.4 71-160 .444 6-17 .353 39-60 .650 48-74 122-3.9 52 17 52 16 13 187 6.0

Eleanor Haring 31-21 18.2 75-175 .429 2-13 .154 26-40 .650 33-47 80-2.6 39 25 47 12 16 178 5.7

Kristen Forristall 31-11 18.5 56-126 .444 18-47 .383 41-53 .774 39-60 99-3.2 63 19 37 7 16 171 5.5

Corrie Mizusawa 30-30 32.5 50-113 .442 4-22 .182 39-57 .684 5-51 56-1.9 35 209 75 2 30 143 4.8

Kaela Chapdelaine 31-6 16.9 27-93 .290 17-54 .315 37-52 .712 5-31 36-1.2 46 53 55 1 26 108 3.5

Ashley Allen 10-0 5.8 7-18 .389 0-1 .000 5-11 .455 3-5 8-0.8 8 2 7 0 3 19 1.9

Cicely Oaks 16-0 6.8 9-28 .321 5-14 .357 7-10 .700 1-8 9-0.6 23 6 7 1 10 30 1.9

Jessica Shetters 23-0 8.0 8-29 .276 0-0 .000 10-18 .556 18-21 39-1.7 14 4 16 5 1 26 1.1

Yadili Okwumabua 17-0 5.6 3-16 .188 0-0 .000 3-9 .333 10-4 14-0.8 15 4 5 0 6 9 0.5

OREGON 31 731-1716 .426 177-515 .344 391-588 .665 382-769 1151-37.1 481 466 512 114 215 2030 65.5

OPPONENT 31 688-1820 .378 136-458 .297 361-497 .726 407-695 1102-35.5 528 384 476 78 252 1873 60.4
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Title Annotation:Sports; Oregon faces stepped-up expectations after an NCAA Tournament appearance, but will lose three of its top players
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Mar 24, 2005
Words:1235
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