Ducks battle through slow start to pick up victory over Arizona
Oregon women’s basketball fought through a slow start to grind out a 62-44 win over the Arizona Wildcats on Friday night.
The win moves the No. 8 Ducks (5-0 Pac-12) into first place in the Pac-12, and makes them the only undefeated squad in the conference. It also extends the team’s winning streak to eight games.
Once again, it was the knockout sophomore duo of Sabrina Ionescu and Ruthy Hebard who led the charge. Ionescu finished with a double-double on a team-high 22 points and 11 rebounds, while Hebard added 14 points.
While the Ducks have shot 50 percent from the field this season, they struggled to connect against the Wildcats, making just 38 percent of their attempts.
“We couldn’t possibly shoot worse,” Ducks head coach Kelly Graves said. “I don’t think we took a bad three all night. Those are shots we typically make — I don’t know what the deal was.”
Lexi Bando started the game with a 3-pointer but the Wildcats fought back, going on a 10-0 run before Ionescu stopped the bleeding with a jumper. Ionescu almost sing-handedly pulled the Ducks through the first quarter, capping off the period by burying a deep 3-pointer to give her team a 19-14 lead.
The Ducks were unable to pull away in the second quarter either. A pair of early fouls on Hebard forced Graves to take his star post player off the court, delivering a hit to the Ducks’ presence down low.
“That can’t happen,” Graves said.
Guard Maite Cazorla stepped up for the Ducks, burying a pair of 3s within a minute of each other to maintain a narrow lead. Her second basket would prove to be the last points the Ducks scored in the first half, making it to the locker room with a tenuous 27-26 lead.
“You miss a few, and you kind of get down,” Ionescu said. “I think we kind of panicked a little bit and veered off of what we normally do.”
While Graves said that the team didn’t have much of a halftime speech, it was clear something clicked when the game resumed. The Ducks opened the third quarter with an offensive barrage from Ionescu and Hebard, with the two leading their team on a 10-0 run.
In the closing minutes of the third quarter, freshman Aina Ayuso pulled up and made a pair of clutch 3-pointers to extend the Ducks to a 45-31 lead.
“She’s a really good player,” Graves said. “Those were two important 3s, and that really helped. Nice to see out of a freshman.”
By the fourth quarter, it finally looked like the Ducks had hit their stride. Riding on 44 percent shooting from 3-point range, the team closed out the Wildcats to maintain their winning streak.
Despite the rocky shooting from his team, Graves still noted the silver lining.
“We’re 5-0,” Graves said. “I think that’s something to be proud of.”
The Ducks will look to maintain their Pac-12 dominance when they face the No.18 Arizona State Sun Devils on Sunday in Eugene.
Follow Aaron on Twitter @aaronalter95
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