Sharpshooting Ducks down No. 18 Sun Devils 74-64
After the Ducks’ abysmal 38 percent shooting performance against Arizona Friday night, head coach Kelly Graves made it clear that his team needed to improve if it hoped to compete with the No. 18 Arizona State Sun Devils.
The Ducks rose to the challenge, dominating the Sun Devils for a 74-64 win. They shot an impressive 66 percent from the field.
“We shot it so well tonight,” Graves said. “Arizona State is typically among the best in the conference and sometimes in the nation at field goal defense. I just thought we were getting really good opportunities.”
The No. 8 (6-0 Pac-12) Ducks have now won nine straight and sit alone at the top of the conference.
The Ducks were bolstered by scoring from Satou Sabally (10 points), Maite Cazorla (15 points), Ruthy Hebard (20 points) and Sabrina Ionescu (26 points). Notably, Hebard shot a perfect 9-of-9 from the field — her second such performance of the season.
Both teams came out of the gate strong, but the Ducks closed out the first quarter on a 12-4 run. They were stout on defense as well and forced an errant pass from ASU after several missed layups. It was Ionescu who put an exclamation point on the quarter when she grabbed a steal and weaved past several ASU defenders en route to a layup to give the Ducks a 22-12 lead.
The Sun Devils weren’t content to roll over.
Oregon struggled to contain ASU star Kianna Ibis, and her 11-point second quarter carved into the Ducks lead. For nearly four minutes, the Ducks were unable to score. By halftime, ASU had closed the gap and trailed just 38-34.
“We kind of let up on the defensive end,” Ionescu said.
But Oregon looked like a new team after halftime.
After snagging a steal, Cazorla sent the ball to Ionescu, who promptly hit a 3-pointer. After the Ducks forced four straight turnovers, ASU took a time-out to try and regroup. The Ducks simply overwhelmed the Sun Devils en route to a 16-0 start to the quarter.
When ASU finally did score, they only managed five points. When the quarter ended, the Ducks held a commanding 59-39 lead.
“I think we came out with a lot more energy,” Ionescu said. “We need that defensive intensity in order to win. They’re not going to beat themselves.”
The Sun Devils closed the gap in the fourth quarter, but never came closer than 10 points back. Even so, Graves and Ionescu both voiced a desire to finish stronger after the Ducks scored just four points in the final six minutes.
Picking up a big win over a ranked opponent is always special, but doing it on your coach’s birthday? Even better.
“Getting him a win for his birthday means a lot,” Hebard said.
Next up for the Ducks is a road trip up to Corvallis, Oregon, for the first part of the Civil War series against No. 18 Oregon State on Friday.
Follow Aaron Alter on Twitter @aaronalter95
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