'To play under a legend like Coach Westhead was a great opportunity'

'To play under a legend like Coach Westhead was a great opportunity'
Oregon Ducks Head Coach Paul Westhead voices his displeasure at a ref's call during his last game coaching for the University of Oregon. Dan Morrison, Oregon News Lab

EUGENE, Ore. - It was the three-pointers that ended an era.

In what proved to be Paul Westhead’s last game as head coach at the University of Oregon, his Ducks fell to their arch rivals the Washington Huskies 93-85 after leading at half 46-34.

The University of Oregon announced before the tournament that Westhead's contract would not be renewed.

In the scorebook, the Ducks looked sharp.

Jillian Alleyne ran up her 29th double-double, with 17 points and 25 rebounds.

Senior and Team Captain Ariel Thomas led the team with 24 points. Katelyn Loper got 14, Lexi Petersen scored 13, and Chrishae Rowe added 17.

But the Ducks scored 35.7 percent of their field goals while the Huskies scored 40.8 percent.

And the Huskies scored 39 percent of their three-pointers. The Ducks only sank 21.6 percent of their shots from long range.

Husky Kelsey Plum led her team with 31 points. Talia Walton scored 24 points, and Jazmine Davis tacked on 22.

Plum went 5-8 in three-pointers, Walton went 4-12 and Davis 5-16. 

Those points proved to be just too much for the Ducks.

The Huskies, with a 19-13 season, now advance in the WNIT.

The Ducks ended their season with a record of 16-16, a goal they set out to achieve at the beginning of the year.

“In the second half we just didn’t make shots. We missed some inside shots. We missed some free throws,” Westhead said.

But as always, Westhead had positive things to say about his team. “I think our kids played very hard. I think they were competitive.”

Team Captain Ariel Thomas was unable to mask the disappointment of losing to the Huskies, but she spoke of the upside of her four-year career as a Duck rather than the losses.

“I’m very grateful and blessed. Thank God I had the opportunity to play with these ladies," Thomas said. "It’s been a very up and down four years. To be part of the season when we were the worst Oregon Women’s Basketball Team ever, to a team that finally makes it to post-season play, it’s been cool. It’s the best team I’ve ever been on by far."

Jillian Alleyne said of this season, “I really don’t have words for it. Although I’ve only had two years, this is my favorite year, because I saw our team take a huge step from where we were last year. If I was going to put it in one word it would be the word: unbelievable.”

Both Thomas and Alleyne praised their coach. 
“To play for a coach like him,” said Alleyne,  “who’s coached NBA players and won championships, it’s probably the highlight of my career, because he has taught me so much. He taught me ultimately to believe in myself, that I can be any kind of player I want to be. So it’s been a great honor and a great pleasure.”

Thomas added, “To be able to play under a legend like Coach Westhead was a great opportunity for me. I’m definitely blessed.”

When asked his thoughts about the end of his career at Oregon, Westhead said, “I really haven’t thought about it. This is the coaching business. You practice between games, and you play to execute and win, but you don’t have many thoughts about, well, if this doesn’t happen, what am I doing next? I’ll get up tomorrow and worry about that.

“It’s been a good run here,” Westhead said.  “Our players and our staff are a first class operation. They do things the right way. It’s been a nice experience. So - on to another career.”

When asked if he plans to find another coaching job, Westhead said, “I’m going to try my best. I’ll see if I can find a team who likes to run.”