Lexi Bando shows senior leadership in blowout win over Colorado
SEATTLE — One month ago, guard Lexi Bando sat on the bench and watched as the then-No. 6 Oregon women’s basketball team beat California 91-54 at Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene.
Today, she started for the No. 1 seeded Ducks in the quarterfinal of the Pac-12 Tournament. She didn’t sit back and watch.
“It’s so hard to see your team and you wish you could do something, but they did great without me and I’m just really happy to be back on the court,” Bando said.
Bando scored 19 points on 6-of-9 shooting, all from 3-point range, in the Ducks’ 84-47 win over the Colorado. Her performance allowed sophomores Ruthy Hebard and Sabrina Ionescu to lay off the gas pedal for most of the game and showed just how vital Bando is to the Ducks.
“It sure is nice having Lexi Bando back,” head coach Kelly Graves said. “It just spreads that floor so much. It makes us a lot more difficult to guard.”
After Bando missed seven straight games with a leg injury during the heart of Pac-12 play, the Ducks managed to fill her void with a tweak in the lineup.
Center Mallory McGwire filled into a starting role for Oregon and gave Oregon the advantage of height. The Ducks lost some momentum with deep shots but with Bando coming back in mid-February, the 3-ball followed.
Bando began knocking down shots from deep again. Since returning against Washington State, a game she scored nine points in — all from 3 — Bando has continued her season average of 10 points per game.
When Bando plays in games against conference opponents, Oregon is undefeated this year — the Ducks’ two conference losses came against Oregon State and Stanford, both games Bando missed.
“I think that someone had mentioned that to me but I don’t really know much about that,” Bando said.
When the Pac-12 Tournament rolled around this weekend, Bando’s consistency from 3-point range continued. Colorado head coach JR Payne appeared frustrated every time the Buffs left Bando any room to shoot from beyond the arc.
“Threes, 3s, and more 3s. The thing I love about Lexi is not just her ability to shoot the ball, but I love that she loves the big shot,” Payne said. “She’s playing like a senior.”
For Bando, that senior mentality means “doing the right thing” and “not doing too much.” That was exactly what Bando did against Colorado.
She took just two shots in the third quarter, both made 3s. Bando only played five minutes in the second half as the Ducks ran away with the quarterfinal matchup.
As favorites for the tournament, the Ducks have all eyes on them, something Bando hasn’t seen in her four years as part of the program. Last year, Oregon, the sixth-seed, defeated No. 3 seed Washington in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 Tournament ahead of the team’s run to the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament.
“We know if you’re a No. 1 team you can get upset and the seeding doesn’t matter,” Bando said. “Everyone in March is playing their best. Tomorrow, we’re just going to have to come out ready because if you lose, you’re done.”
Follow Shawn Medow on Twitter @ShawnMedow
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