In Pac-12 championship game, the Ducks’ 24 points off of turnovers were the difference
SEATTLE – In Oregon women’s basketball’s loss to Stanford during the regular season, the Cardinal turned the Ducks’ 15 turnovers into 21 points.
On Sunday night, the Ducks flipped the script with 24 points off of the Cardinal’s errors on their way to a 77-57 victory in the Pac-12 Tournament title game.
“I thought our energy was great,” Oregon head coach Kelly Graves said. “We decided to play them outside-in, and we did that.”
In a game that featured nearly identical stat lines from both teams, efficiency on turnovers was the key to victory for the Ducks. Stanford coughed the ball up 16 times, but Oregon wasn’t far behind with 13 turnovers. While the Cardinal couldn’t take advantage of the Ducks’ errors, a fired up Oregon team put 1.5 points on the board for each Stanford giveaway.
“I think it boiled down to we turned it over too much,” Cardinal head coach Tara VanDerveer said.
Stanford guard Kiana Williams added that Oregon’s length swallowed up space, causing her team to have to force bad shots.
It was Maite Cazorla and Sabrina Ionescu who led the charge in transition. The two combined for six steals, five of which they converted into points. Both flashed exceptional speed in transition, and Stanford struggled to keep up. In one spectacular moment, Ionescu turned the ball over herself, only to chase it down and score.
“Last time we played, we didn’t play our best, especially on defense,” Cazorla said. “We pushed the ball in transition, and we got them.”
Notably, the Ducks’ hustle on forced turnovers came after a grueling, physical victory over UCLA the night before. Conversely, Stanford was able to rest its starters after dominating Arizona State early in the game on Saturday. If Oregon’s squad was worn out, the difference in points off of turnovers didn’t show it.
One of the team’s most lethal weapons in transition is guard Lexi Bando and her catch-and-shoot 3-pointer. While she had just one made 3-ball in the game, her teammates never hesitate to get her the ball.
“It’s automatic,” Cazorla said. “We know where she’s at, we know she’s one of the best 3-point shooters. So we just find her.”
The other key to the team’s turnover dominance was physicality. Players like Ionescu, Cazorla and Bando can chase opponents around the floor all day. Strong post presences like Ruthy Hebard and Mallory McGwire, on the other hand, were simply impassable.
The two sides of Oregon’s defense synergized spectacularly against Stanford. The height and length or the Ducks’ bigs forced poor passes, which Ionescu and Cazorla streaked across the floor to pick off. Ionescu in particular showed her vertical strength when she snatched some errant passes clean out of the air.
All season, the Ducks have frustrated opponents with their varied play, so it’s no surprise that even a talented Stanford squad struggled to lock them down. VanDerveer acknowledged as much after the game, and the Ducks’ performance throughout the tournament proved it.
Follow Aaron Alter on Twitter @aaronalter95
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