BAYLOR’S SIZE TO MUCH FOR THE DUCKS – Oregon’s Magical Season Comes to an End in Tampa With a 72-67 Loss to the Bears

Amalie Arena
Tampa, FL.

QUICKIE RECAP

It really was a game for the ages.  In their first ever Final Four, the Oregon women’s basketball team dropped a heartbreaking 72-67 loss to the overall No. 1 seed Baylor Bears.   However, this was a game the Ducks had a chance to win down the stretch after they tied the game at 67 with 1:40 to play.  The lead in this game changed 12 different times but in the end the Bears size and experience was to much for Oregon ending their season with a record of 33-5.   Once again, it was All-American guard Sabrina Ionescu who led the way with 18 points.

HOW IT HAPPENED

This one was as exciting and well played as advertised.

Both Oregon and Baylor scored like top tier teams in the country – the bears from down low in the paint while the Ducks continued to stroke the three ball hitting 6 of 15 in the first two quarters to take a 34-33 lead at halftime.

Oregon all star guard Sabrina Ionescu was held scoreless in the first 10 minutes, however in the second quarter she came to life scoring 12 while connecting on 3 of 5 from distance.

As advertised the Bears were extremely tough down low in the first half led by 6’7 post player Kalani Brown who dropped 10 points in the first half hitting 4 of 7 within 5 feet from the basket.

Defending Brown was Oregon center Ruthy Hebard who played strong defense but was held scoreless unable to score on two attempts.

Oregon forward Ruthy Hebard defends Baylor 6'7 center Kalani Brown during Friday's 72-67 loss to Baylor. ( Photo Courtesy of Tom Corno )

Oregon forward Ruthy Hebard defends Baylor 6’7 center Kalani Brown during Friday’s 72-67 loss to Baylor. ( Photo Courtesy of Tom Corno )

Shooting the deep ball was something the Ducks had to do to have any chance of beating the Bears.

In the first half, the Ducks took an 8-4 lead at the 6:24 mark of the 1st quarter when Erin Boley drilled the first of two consecutive shots from distance.   Just a minute and a half later, Boley nailed another deep three to give Oregon an 11-4 lead with 5:00 minutes to play in the first.

Later in the first Baylor got back into the game with an 8-0 run and took the lead 12-11 when ( Name ) hit a short jumper in the lane.

Baylor ended the first quarter with a 19-15 lead.

In the second quarter Brown gave the Bears a five point lead at 29-24 with 2:48 to play in the first half when she found space underneath and scored on a short dump off into the hoop.

And just when it looked liked the Bears would flex their scoring muscle inside, the Ducks roared back hitting consecutive three balls – the first by Ionescu to close the gap at 29-27 and the second by Boley who hit a deep three from the corner to pull within one at 31-30 with 1:46 in the second quarter.

The Ducks would eventually grab the halftime lead at 34-33 when Ionescu drilled a triple from the top of the circle and was fouled on the shot.  Ionescu made the free throw giving the Ducks the halftime lead.

In the second half it was more of the same.

Baylor would take a 56-55 lead into the final quarter led by their inside bigs of Kalani Brown and Lauren Cox.   With 5:58 left in the third, Cox grabbed a long rebound and was able to score on a put back giving the Bears a 45-40 lead.

On the next Oregon possession, Oregon guard Maite Cazorla drove the lane and scored pulling the Ducks to within three points at 45-42.   Just over a minute later, Oregon would tie the game at 47 when Satou Sabally lofted a deep three ball and put it in at the 3:05 mark.

The Ducks would take the lead back with 94 seconds remaining in the third when Ionescu scored on a dribble drive and was fouled on the play.   After the made free throw the Ducks had a 52-51 lead.

Going into the final quarter the Bears grabbed the one point lead when Cox came up with another key offensive board and scored on the put back with :03 to play.

“You know, if you had told me that we would have only lost the rebound battle by five, held them to 72, I’d like my chances” said Oregon coach Kelly Graves when asked about the difficult match-up inside with the Baylor bigs.

“I thought we did a lot of good things defensively.  They were the ones that killed us. We got killed in points in the paint. That normally doesn’t happen. We got doubled in points in the paint.

Yeah, sure, that hurts. But those all count, too.  We needed to make a few more threes. We weren’t going to exchange them, but that usually works in our favor and it didn’t tonight.”

In the fourth Boley once again drilled a deep three ball to tie the game at 61 with 7:03 to play.   Less than a minute later, the Ducks once again grabbed the lead at 64-61 when Cazorla hit her first triple of the game.

That’s when the game turned for the Bears.

The Ducks failed to convert on key offensive possessions to keep the pressure on the Baylor offense.   With 3:47 to play, Brown grabbed hit a short jumper to give the Bears the lead at 65-64.   Oregon again would go stagnant on offense allowing Baylor to extend its lead.

And they did.

With 1:57 to play Cox drove the lane and scored on the play giving Baylor a 67-64 lead.

Oregon's Satou Sabally shoots and hits a three pointer late in the game to tie the score at 67. ( Photo Courtesy of Tom Corno )

Oregon’s Satou Sabally shoots and hits a three pointer late in the game to tie the score at 67.
( Photo Courtesy of Tom Corno )

However, there was no quit in the Ducks as they used the long ball to tie the score at 67 when Sabally once again came up big with another deep three, her third of the game.   Sabally contributed 16 points and converted on 5 of 13 from the field and 3 of 7 from distance.

As close as they were to the National Championship the Ducks just couldn’t come up with a key defensive stop on the No. 1 seed Bears when it mattered.   With :39 seconds to play Baylor guard Didi Jackson drove the lane and scored on a layup and blown defensive play by the Ducks interior giving the Bears a 69-67 lead.

From there the Ducks weren’t able to convert the long ball turning the game into a free throw contest.  The Bears converted three of the final four free throws to give Baylor the 72-67 win sending them into the championship game on Sunday.

While Ionescu led the Ducks with 18 points, she wasn’t able to find the magic she displayed against Mississippi State against Baylor.

Ionescu was just 6 of 24 from the field but did hit 4 of 11 from distance.   What did show up in her final line was three very uncharacteristic turnovers in key moments.  As a team, the Ducks turned the ball over 13 times – three over their 10 per game average.

“I mean, we continue to learn” said Ionescu after the game.

“We were put in positions we haven’t been put before. But I think this is just going to make us more hungry. We got to this stage that our program has never got to. So I think learning through this game and learning through the previous years, it’s just going to get us ready to want to come back.”

As for rebounds, Oregon certainly held their own against the much bigger Bears.   Baylor collected a total of 38 rebounds while Oregon had 36.

The glaring difference in the game was points in the paint.   As expected the Bears front line scored a total of 48 points in and around the basket while the Ducks scored just 20.

“It still hurts” answered Graves when asked if there was any solace taken that his team played Baylor so close.

“We’ll have a chance to look back on this and say and realize that this was an incredible season, incredible season.  We’ve got a lot coming back, you guys.  This is going to be a team that’s loaded.   Where we ultimately got hurt tonight was some depth inside.  We’ve got Nyara Sabally, who will be one of the best players in the country, sitting on that bench who loves to bang, likes to be in those kind of moments.

Hey, we made the most out of what we had this year. You saw eight players, not very often you have eight players in a uniform at a Final Four game. But they gave us everything they had. I applaud them for it. I’m really proud of them. I love each and every one of them.”

 

 

 

 

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