Kelly Graves found a plethora of reasons to sport the boisterous smile he had postgame Friday night at Beasley Coliseum.
Now three quarters of the way through his debut season as Oregon’s women’s basketball coach, Graves is finally starting to find some familiarities between his successful 14-year tenure as Gonzaga’s coach and his current gig.
For starters, Graves saw his team come out on top of a chess-like battle with Washington State coach June Daugherty.
He wouldn’t be able to exhale until the final buzzer when a missed free throw was gobbled up by Oregon’s Jordan Loera, allowing the Ducks to watch the clock hit triple-zeroes with a 70-69 victory in tow.
The bigger reason to smile for him, perhaps, was his family making the drive from Spokane to watch his first Inland Northwest triumph as the head man in Eugene.
“It was nice to have my family here. They’re still living in Spokane, so my boys and my wife will hopefully be down (to Eugene) in the summer when my boy (oldest son) graduates,” Graves said. “So it was neat, good to be back.”
The Cougars (13-9, 4-7 Pac-12) had an opportunity to spoil Graves’ homecoming-of-sorts with two seconds left.
Lia Galdeira drove from the right wing before being met by two Oregon defenders. She leaned in an attempt to draw contact – to no avail – instead throwing up a shot that rimmed out into the mitts of Oregon’s Jillian Alleyne who was immediately fouled.
It was only fitting. Alleyne tormented the Cougars all game long on the boards, collecting 19 rebounds to go with her 20 points. She scored 16 of her points in the first half, forcing the Cougars to front her away from the basket in the second half.
“She’s very talented, definitely one of the toughest post players in the league,” said WSU’s Mariah Cooks, who had the defensive assignment. “I felt like the first half we were playing too much in front of her so they were just lobbing it.”
The gamble to double Oregon’s exceptional post ultimately did the Cougars in. Oregon (11-11, 4-7) converted 10 3-pointers, including five in the second half.
“It’s tough, when you’re going to double, as we like to say as coaches you have to pick your poison. And for us as coaches, they were hitting their 3s in the corner. That was the ballgame,” Daugherty said.
The Cougars will have little time to dwell on the loss with No. 7-ranked Oregon State coming to Pullman on Sunday.
Graves won’t have time to revel in the win either. He’ll be in Seattle on Sunday taking on Washington. But he’ll enjoy this win with his family for as long as he can.
“It was sweet, this was a sweet victory, because they’re a good team. It was good to beat them,” Graves said.
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