It appears the Ducks are motivated to make a deep postseason run with Paul Westhead.
Oregon opened the Women's National Invitation Tournament by pulverizing Pacific, 90-63, in front of a small but satisfied crowd of 596 on Thursday night at Matthew Knight Arena.
Westhead, whose contract will not be renewed by the athletic department after it expires on March 31, will coach the Ducks at least one more time.
Oregon will likely host a second-round game against the Hawaii-Washington winner. The WNIT will announce the location, date and time after the Warriors (17-13) and Huskies (17-13) play tonight.
The opponent doesn't matter to the Ducks as much as continuing on with this group for as long as possible.
"It's our last go-round with our seniors and our coaches. That's our biggest motivation, giving our all for them," sophomore forward Jillian Alleyne said. "They've put in so much their four years here and the coaches' years here. We just want to give it our all for them. Honestly, that's probably the sole reason why we're going so hard in practice."
Senior point guard Ariel Thomas was spectacular in her long overdue postseason debut, finishing with 20 points, three rebounds, three steals, two assists and one turnover in 28 minutes.
Oregon ended the Tigers' (18-13) season after holding the visitors from the West Coast Conference to 27.6 percent (21-for-76) from the field and dominating the rebounding battle (65-38).
"Better late than never," Thomas said. "Obviously, we've struggled. But that was the best defensive game we've had, I think."
Katelyn Loper also scored 20 points as Oregon shot 44.7 percent from the field. Alleyne notched her NCAA-leading 28th double-double with 14 points and 18 rebounds.
Chrishae Rowe had 16 points and 13 rebounds off the bench, and Lexi Petersen also scored in double figures with 14 points as the Ducks (16-15) quadrupled last season's win total.
"Whether you're here for another game or another 10 years, you always want to perform well in your first postseason game to allow yourselves to get better and move on," Westhead said. "Because there's not get better if you don't win. ... I think our players wanted to win because deep down they want to keep playing."
The Tigers were able to get within 12 points in the second half, but then Loper hit four consecutive three-pointers for the Ducks during a 13-3 spurt to make the score 63-41 with 10:18 remaining.
Oregon led 38-22 at the intermission with Rowe scoring 10 points and grabbing seven rebounds to spark the Ducks after both teams got off to a sluggish start.
Westhead's suddenly defensive-minded squad held Pacific scoreless for over seven minutes in the first half and built a 25-6 lead after a three-pointer by Petersen capped a 22-0 run during the stretch.
Pacific guard KiKi Moore had nine rebounds and seven steals but was held to 13 points on 5-for-23 shooting.
"I don't know where the defense came from. I take no credit for that," said Westhead, who had assistants Dan Muscatell, Shandrika Lee and Bianca Ziemann all scout the Tigers on short notice after the bracket was released Sunday night. "But we scored 90 points, so I'll take a little credit for that."
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