Oregon women’s basketball hang on to beat USC 80-74 in double-overtime nail-biter
Fans who came to Oregon women’s basketball’s Friday night clash with USC in hopes of seeing a conventional, by-the-numbers game likely walked away disappointed.
For those looking for thrilling basketball, the Ducks’ gritty, thrilling 80-74 win in double-overtime delivered in spades.
The win comes at a critical moment for the No. 9 Ducks (24-4, 13-2 Pac-12), as it keeps them locked in a three-way tie for first place in the conference with No. 7 UCLA and No. 14 Stanford.
“I thought it was a heck of a game,” Ducks head coach Kelly Graves said. “We weren’t at our best tonight, but give USC credit man, they played hard.”
The Ducks started off strong in the first quarter. After allowing the Trojans to jump out to a 4-0 lead off of a pair of turnovers, Ruthy Hebard took matters into her own hands with a pair of baskets.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that it was Hebard who got things going — coming into the game, the sophomore had made her last 18 field goals. Clearly, the five days between games weren’t enough to throw Hebard off her streak.
By the end of the night, she had set a new NCAA record with 30 consecutive baskets. Impressively, Hebard’s 27 points came while going up against Kristen Simon, an imposing presence in the paint in her own right. Despite some chippy moments, Hebard stayed cool.
“It was definitely pretty physical,” Hebard said. “I’m really blessed that I have really good teammates that come up to me and pick me up. My mom was in the crowd, and I know she’d be mad if I got in a fight, so I just don’t do that.”
After entering the second quarter with a 21-12 lead, the wheels looked like they had fallen off the Ducks by the end of the half. The team scored just five points on 15 percent shooting from the field. USC was able to fight back, and the Ducks went into halftime tied at 26.
As they’ve done so many times this year, the Ducks came out of the break hot. The team put up a solid 19 points on 57 percent shooting, but struggled to stop the Trojans on defense.
Part of that fell on the Ducks’ 24 turnovers, which USC was able to convert into 31 points. While Graves wasn’t pleased with his team’s struggle to hold on to the ball, he noted that overall, the Ducks tend to not turn the ball over as much as tonight.
The fourth quarter went back and forth, with the teams knotted up at 62 with 12 seconds left to play. Sabrina Ionescu held the ball for a potential game-winner, only to miss her jumper.
The first overtime period stayed neck-and-neck, but the Ducks had the chance to win it with a final shot once more. This time, Maite Cazorla was unable to convert her layup attempt.
After USC scored the first basket of the second overtime, Lexi Bando answered with a deep 3-pointer. She wasn’t done, though.
Holding just a one-point lead with 46 seconds to play, Bando heaved up a long 3 as the shot clock expired. The ball kicked off the rim and struck the top of the backboard before falling through the hoop to put the Ducks up 78-74. USC failed to score again, and the Ducks emerged the victors.
Oregon will look to claim Pac-12 supremacy when it faces No. 7 UCLA in Eugene on Monday.
Follow Aaron on Twitter @aaronalter95
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