( GAME NOTEBOOK ) OREGON PUNCHES THEIR TICKET TO THE CONFERENCE FINALE WITH 88-70 WIN OVER NO. 4 SEED ARIZONA – Sabrina Ionescu Leads the Way with 31 Points, Boley Adds 18

Mandalay Bay Events Center
Las Vegas, NV.

QUICKIE RECAP

It was another long ball showing Saturday night for the No. 1 seeded Ducks.

Oregon ( 30-2 ) used their dynamic shooting from beyond the arc to outlast the No. 4 seed Arizona Wildcats by a score of 88-70 sending the Ducks into the Pac-12 Tournament Championship game Sunday at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas.

Oregon, now 30-2 on the season, connected on 15 of 31 ( 48% ) to get the win.   Leading the way was Sabrina Ionescu who tallied 31 points on 11 of 16 shooting and drilled 6 of 9 from distance.

The Ducks led by ten at the half, 43-33, and remained even in scoring in the third quarter taking a 67-56 lead after three.   In the fourth quarter, Oregon outscored the Cats 21-14 to seal the win and a spot in Sunday’s championship game.

“We’re on a mission” explained Oregon coach Kelly Graves when asked about the importance of winning the tournament championship.

“We don’t want to share the regular season title with someone else that wins the tournament championship.  We want to continue to build the resume as well. Right now we’re 9-1 against teams that were in the last top 16 reveal. 9-1. Five of those games on the road. South Carolina, 4-0. Baylor, 1-1. Maryland, 2-2. We actually have more wins against the top 16 than the other three projected number ones combined, including five on the road, and the other two — other three have two combined on the road.”

DUCKS REMAIN HOT FROM BEYOND THE ARC

The simple truth is this Oregon team is extremely difficult to defend.  That’s why they’re now 30-2 on the season.

If it’s not Erin Boley knocking down shots from distance, it’s Sabrina Ionescu, Taylor Chavez, Jaz Shelley or Satou Sabally.   Combined, Oregon drilled 15 of 31 shots from beyond the arc led by Ionescu who connected on 6 of 9 attempts.   Boley was 4 of 8 and Chavez was perfect in all three of her attempts.

From the field overall, Oregon converted 33 of 62 shooting 53% and eclipsing their game average ( 86 ppg )  by scoring 88.   The Ducks 88 points is the most points scored in the conference tournament this year.

“Offensively we’re the most efficient team in the country, by a long way” said Graves.

“Our true shooting percentage is best in the nation. Our turnover ratio is the best. This is a good basketball team offensively, we’re an elite team, one of the best of all time, quite frankly. So when we get it rolling and get to that tempo and find shooters and knocking them down, we become really difficult because you have an inside presence who can, you know, command a double-team.”

The Ducks have now connected on a total of 27 triples in their first two games of the tournament and are shooting 48% from beyond the arc.

BEST DEFENSE IN THE CONFERENCE CAN’T CONTAIN THE DUCKS

Arizona entered Saturday’s semi-final as the best defensive team in the Pac-12 allowing teams to score just 55 points per contest.

In Saturday’s match-up with the Wildcats, Oregon was a plus 33 in that category giving Arizona fits from every position on the floor.

 

Oregon guard Sabrina Ionescu knocks down a triple vs Arizona in the Ducks 88-70 in Las Vegas. ( Photo courtesy of Tom Corno )

Oregon guard Sabrina Ionescu knocks down a triple vs Arizona in the Ducks 88-70 in Las Vegas. ( Photo courtesy of Tom Corno )

Arizona did force the Ducks into 11 turnovers, but they simply couldn’t get stops when they needed them allowing Ionescu, Boley and Ruthy Hebard to all score in double figures.   Ionescu led the way for the Ducks with 31 points.

While the Cats are an extremely proficient defense, they couldn’t keep the Ducks off the boards.   Oregon out rebounded Arizona by 17, ( 39-22 ) and allowed the Ducks to snare 16 second chance points.

OREGON DEFENSE NOT UP TO PAR

While Oregon has now won it’s 18th consecutive game since losing at Arizona State, the Ducks have used their defensive prowess to fuel that run.

The Ducks are just behind Arizona in points allowed per game at 57.   Against Arizona, Oregon had a difficult time defending the long ball allowing the Wildcats to knock down 10 of 21 from distance.   The Ducks also had an extremely difficult time containing Arizona guard Aari McDonald who dropped a tournament high 34 points connecting on 14 of 25 from the floor.

In Eugene back on February 7th, the Ducks held McDonald to just 13 points.   On Saturday, McDonald seemed to score at will either driving the lane or pulling up from distance.

“I’m really proud of our team” said Graves.

“I thought we gutted it out. That was kind of a grind-it-up kind of win. I give Adia a lot of credit. She’s done such a good job with that team. Who would have thought that, you know, they’re in the Semifinals this quickly, and battling us toe-to-toe. Hats off to them. It kind of had a feel of a Sweet 16, kind of Elite Eight game out there tonight. I won’t be surprised to see Arizona at that level this year. They have got a really good basketball team.”

The Ducks did hold the Wildcats to 46% ( 28 of 61 ) from the field.   Certainly, if Oregon has an off night in the scoring department, they’ll need their size and defense to offset any shooting struggles.

THIRD TOURNAMENT CHAMPIONSHIP GAME

With the win over Arizona, Oregon will now play in their third consecutive Pac-12 conference tournament championship game.

The Oregon bench celebrates during the fourth quarter of Saturday's semi-final win over Arizona. ( Photo courtesy of Tom Corno )

The Oregon bench celebrates during the fourth quarter of Saturday’s semi-final win over Arizona. ( Photo courtesy of Tom Corno )

Two years ago Oregon demolished Stanford 77-57 to take the tournament title.

Last season, the Ducks again faced the Cardinal in the tournament finale as the No. 1 seed but Stanford stunned the Ducks 64-57 to take the crown.

On Sunday, Oregon will take on the winner of the Stanford – UCLA game.   The top seed in the tournament has now played in 17 of 19 championship games.

Tip off is at 5:00 pm pst and will be nationally televised by ESPN2

TOURNAMENT NOTE

With her 31 points against Arizona Saturday evening, Sabrina Ionesc has now set the all time scoring record in the Pac-12 women’s tournament.

Late in the fourth quarter Ionescu surpassed the old record and now has accumlated 224 tournament points in her Oregon career.

Also, Erin Boley surpassed 1,000 career points on Saturday during the first quarter against Arizona.  Boley scored 18 points in the win.

 

 

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