( GAME NOTEBOOK ) NO. 1 SEED OREGON USES THE LONG BALL TO SEND UTAH PACKING 79-59 – Ducks Move Into the Semi-Final Round of the Pac-12 Tournament on Saturday Taking on No. 4 Seed Arizona
Mandalay Bay Events Center
Las Vegas, NV.
It was another slow start for the Pac-12 regular season champs.
The No. 1 seed Oregon women’s basketball team opened their quarterfinal game of the Pac-12 tournament Friday against No. 8 seed Utah at the Mandalay Bay Events Center. For the second consecutive game, the top seeded Ducks started sluggish surrendering an early 17-11 first quarter lead and actually trailed 19-16 after the first ten minutes of play.
From that point forward though, the Ducks punished the Utes going on a 29-10 run over the next nine and a half minutes to take a 45-29 lead into the halftime break.
Giving the Ducks a much needed spark was their bench. Guards Taylor Chavez and Jaz Shelley gave the Ducks a huge lift from beyond the arc – Shelley connecting on both of her attempts and Chavez drilling 1 of 2. Center Lydia Giomi came off the bench and provided valuable minutes giving the Ducks a rim protector in the paint forcing the Utes into untimely and bad shots.
Oregon, ( 29-2 ) once again proved to be to much for the Utes outscoring Utah in the second half 34-30 to win their opening game 79-59 in front of a large Oregon crowd.
The Ducks were led by Sabrina Ionescu who finished with a double-double – 19 points and 11 rebounds.
DUCKS SHAKE OFF A SHAKY START
After allowing Utah a 19-16 first quarter lead, and certainly giving the Ducks something to think about, Oregon finally started their motors and cruised to a 20 point win over the final three quarters.
Coming into Las Vegas with a first round bye and the overall No. 1 seed, the Ducks were well rested after last Sunday’s dominating 92-56 win over Washington. But just like the Husky game, the Ducks came out a bit lackluster and certainly allowed the Utes to score at will in the first 10 minutes of play.
After a spark from the Ducks bench, Oregon went on a 20-4 run in the first six and a half minutes of the second quarter to stretch the lead to 13 ( 36-23 ). At the break, Oregon coach Kelly Graves shared his displeasure with Jill Savage of the Pac-12 Network telling the television viewing audience “our starting five just wasn’t very good” in the first quarter.
“This time of year, you don’t always have to play pretty,” said Graves after the game. “You just want to win. But we’ve got to set a higher bar for ourselves.”
The Ducks will have to get better and more consistent at the beginning of these post season games if they hope to bring home a conference tournament championship.
The long ball was the Ducks best weapon Friday night.
With Ruthy Hebard on the inside and Satou Sabally playing at the four spot, this Oregon squad has a variety of talented guard / forwards who can spot up from behind the arc and be a deadly weapon against any opponent. They proved that once again Friday night against the Utes connecting on 12 of 23 attempts for 52%.
Leading the way was Sabrina Ionescu and Erin Boley who both hit 3 of 6 shots. Both Taylor Chavez and Jaz Shelley each hit 2 of 3 from distance while Satou Sabally drilled 2 of 4. For the season, the Ducks are averaging 38% ( 273 of 712 )
The Oregon bench certainly proved to be one of the deciding factors against Utah Friday evening.
Oregon came into Friday’s match-up with Utah averaging 86 points per game but could only muster 16 after the first 10 minutes.
To shake things up, and hopefully spark his club, Graves went to his bench and inserted guards Taylor Chavez and Jaz Shelley who immediately made an impact. Combined, both guards drilled 4 of 6 shots from distance and were a total of 6 of 10 from the field. Chavez also added three rebounds.
Center Lydia Giomi was also instrumental in the Ducks second quarter run. On the defensive end Giomi blocked a key shot in the Utah paint and then raced up the floor to grab an assist and lay-in from Sabrina Ionescu on the fast break.
In the scoring column, the Ducks bench added a total of 20 points.
ON TO THE SEMI’S
With their quarterfinal win over Utah, Oregon now moves into the semi-finals of the Pac-12 Tournament.
The Ducks will play No. 4 seed Arizona who beat No. 12 seed California 86-73 earlier on Friday. The Ducks and Wildcats faceoff on Friday at 6:00 pm pacific time.