A 65-62 comeback win over UCLA leads the Ducks to their first ever Pac-12 Tournament title game
SEATTLE — UCLA had possession down three points with only seconds to play in the game.
Oregon forced the Bruins to keep the ball outside of the 3-point arc, and UCLA star guard Jordin Canada passed the ball off in the final seconds to Japreece Dean, who launched up a desperation, buzzer-beating attempt that missed.
“We were trying to get isolation for a 3 or a quick drive to the basket,” Canada said. “I just didn’t make a good decision down the stretch.”
The Ducks celebrated like they had won a championship, rushing the court with even head coach Kelly Graves leaping into the air.
But that was just the game to get there.
“I don’t typically get that emotional, but that was a heck of a game,” Graves said.
No. 1 seed Oregon played yet another thriller against No. 4 seed UCLA this season, but this time, a first ever Pac-12 Tournament championship game appearance was on the line for the Ducks. After a rough start for Oregon, the Ducks kept it close until late in the game when a fourth quarter 10-0 run got them the narrow, come-from-behind 65-62 win.
UCLA held a 62-55 lead with five minutes, 28 seconds left. Oregon hadn’t led since the third quarter, but the Ducks’ 10-0 run, coupled with the Bruins’ 0-for-7 shooting to close out the game, dashed UCLA’s chances at reaching the title game.
The Ducks led 63-62 when guard Sabrina Ionescu dribbled the ball up the court, dragging away UCLA defenders. She flashed the ball across the key to a wide open junior forward Oti Gildon to create the three-point lead.
“I don’t know how I got open, but I got open and was lucky enough to make the basket,” Gildon said.
But, as Oregon came out the victors, the Ducks might have lost a key piece to the puzzle in freshman forward Satou Sabally, who left the game with an injury. Graves says he doesn’t know if she’ll be back, saying “she’s not feeling so good.”
It was a rocky start for Oregon, which went down 5-0 early and trailed by as much as 13 in the second quarter.
With 4:22 left in the first half and UCLA up 32-19, Oregon began to turn on the heat. The Ducks narrowed the gap by halftime thanks to some defense and 3-pointers from guards Maite Cazorla, Ionescu and Lexi Bando.
“I thought that was the key to the game in a lot of ways, just because it gave us a little bit of momentum going in,” Graves said. “I thought the first half we were as poor offensively as we’ve been.”
Bando hit 3-of-5 from beyond the arc, breaking Oregon’s 3-point record with the 271st deep shot of her career.
“Well Sabrina’s going to pass it next year,” Bando said, jokingly. “But it’s all about the team.”
Bando is 9-of-14 from 3-point range during the Pac-12 Tournament. She and the Ducks will have to prepare for either No. 2 seed Stanford or No. 6 seed Arizona State.
“I’m so excited,” sophomore forward Ruthy Hebard said. “I’m hoping for Stanford.”
— Emerald Sports (@ODEsports) March 4, 2018
Follow Shawn Medow on Twitter @ShawnMedow
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