( GAME NOTEBOOK ) PAC-12 TOURNAMENT CHAMPIONS – Oregon Destroys No. 3 Seed Stanford 89-56 to Complete the Regular Season and Tournament Championship Sweep
Mandalay Bay Events Center
Las Vegas, NV.
Sabrina Ionescu said it without hesitation at the end of last season.
“We have unfinished business.”
Another piece of that unfinished business was realized Sunday evening at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas as the No. 1 seed Oregon Ducks demolished No. 3 seed Stanford 89-56 to take the Pac-12 Tournament crown.
Winning their 19th consecutive game, and their third this season over the Cardinal, the Ducks have now won the regular season Pac-12 title and the tournament title which eluded them last season against the Cardinal.
The Ducks once again started slow allowing Stanford to take a 17-14 lead after the first ten minutes. From there though, Oregon grabbed control and never let up going on a 29-9 run to take a 43-26 lead into halftime.
The Ducks never relinquished control for the remainder of the game and proved why they should be a No. 1 seed when the NCAA tournament begins in two weeks.
“We played great” said Oregon coach Kelly Graves after the game.
“I just thought defensively we were on point. Offensively, it is one of the most efficient games I have seen us play. Everybody contributed. When we needed different players to step up, different players did. I’m really proud of them for their effort, and we validated a very hard-fought two-month grind Pac-12 regular season championship now with the tournament championship. We don’t have to share it with anybody.”
MAGICAL SECOND QUARTER
It’s kind of been their M.O here in the conference tournament and the last several games of the regular season.
The Ducks have started slow, but shifted gears to hyper speed in the second quarter to pull away from their opponents.
It was the same Sunday afternoon.
Stanford grabbed a 17-14 lead at the end of the first quarter and appeared they would give the Ducks a good run for the title.
However when the second quarter began you could see the determination, and anger, on the faces of Sabrina Ionescu and Minyon Moore.
Ionescu was held scoreless in the first ten minutes and seemed determined to exact revenge.
By the end of the second quarter, the Ducks had taken a 43-26 lead thanks to the 29-9 run they put on the Cardinal. Ionescu scored 15 points in the quarter on 5 of 6 shooting and Minyon Moore added 9 to give the Ducks the advantage.
“I think we started out very well” explained Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer.
“We had a very good first quarter, and we just really struggled after that. And a lot of that, give the credit to Oregon. They are a terrific team. They shot the ball well from the perimeter. A lot of different people stepped up for them. They have a great inside game.”
LONG DISTANCE SERVICE – ‘Shooting a pea in the Ocean’
Oregon once again used the long ball to take the win and the title.
Normally a red hot shooting squad from the outside, the Ducks were 0 for 3 from distance in the opening quarter. Sabally missed her two attempts and Ionescu missed one.
However, that trend changed in the second quarter when the Ducks found their range and dropped 4 of 6 from distance – one by Erin Boley, one by Ionescu and crazy enough, two by guard Minyon Moore who had only converted 14 triples all season.
At halftime after the Ducks extended their lead to 43-26, Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer was asked about her decision to have the Cardinal defense sag off of Moore from deep range. “Minyon usually can’t throw a pea in the ocean” said VanDerveer.
And she was partially correct.
Moore didn’t through one pea in the ocean, she threw four peas in the ocean and was 6 of 9 from the field for the game and scored a season high 21 points.
“You know, there have been games where she’s struggled, but she’s got the heart of a champion” said Graves about Moore.
“And on the biggest night, on the biggest stage, she was able to step up her game. And that changed I thought the whole game. By her making those shots, it was like, yeah, we know what Stanford was trying to do, and it wasn’t going to work. She stepped up to that challenge.”
Oregon as a team shot a blistering 53% from beyond the arc connecting on 10 of 19 attempts led by Moore who was 4 of 5.
SABRINA, RUTHY & MINYON ON THE ATTACK
The danger of this Oregon team is the consistent weapons they have from every position, including their bench play.
Typically the big three is Sabrina, Ruthy Hebard and Satou Sabally. But Sunday evening against Stanford, it was tough little Minyon Moore who grabbed the headlines along with Ionescu and Hebard.
From the moment the ball was tipped in the opening circle, Moore was not only aggressive driving the lane, but she also lofted five attempts from distance, converting four of them.
Moore ended her night with a season high 21 points and was certainly the spark plug to jump start the Ducks when they needed it most.
Not happy with her opening quarter performance, Ionescu also went on the attack dropping 7 of 12 shots in the final three quarters. The pivotal quarter was the second when Ionescu scored 15 points including 4 made free throws. Ionescu ended her championship night with 20 points, 12 assists and 8 rebounds. It was her 58th double-double of her career and 20th of the season.
On the inside, it was typical Ruthy.
Hebard was the Ducks leading scorer with 24 points converting an extremely efficient 9 of 11 shots. She also converted two jumpers from the elbow and free throw line showing she has more than just an inside game.
The big three on this night scored 65 of the Ducks 89 points.
NEXT STEP – PRESUMPTIVE NO. 1 SEED
It’s almost a lock the third ranked Ducks will be the NCAA tournament No. 1 seed out of the west.
If that’s the case, the Ducks won’t have to travel out of the State of Oregon at least until the Final Four in New Orleans during the first weekend of April if they make it that far.
Oregon will no doubt host their first two tournament games in Eugene at Matthew Knight Arena in two weeks. If the Ducks win in Eugene, they’ll advance into the Sweet 16 at the Moda Center in Portland for the next two games. If the Ducks win the west, they’ll then travel to New Orleans as a member of the Final Four.
Oregon will learn their NCAA fate and seed on Monday March 16th at 4:00 pm pst when ESPN announces the committee’s 64 pairings into the tournament.
Oregon’s 33-point margin of victory is the largest in a Tournament championship game (25, Stanford def. USC, 89-64, 2009). The Ducks’ 89 points equaled the most in a title game (89, Stanford vs. USC, 2009). Oregon’s 56.4% from the field was a championship game record (.500 twice, last Oregon vs. Stanford in 2018).
Most Outstanding Player: Sabrina Ionescu – Oregon
Pac-12 All-Tournament Team:
Aari McDonald, G, Arizona
Kiana Williams, G, Stanford
Ruthy Hebard, F, Oregon
Lexie Hull, F, Stanford
Michaela Onyenwere, F, UCLA
KELLY GRAVES & TEAM POST GAME BRIEFING