Oregon women’s basketball trounces Minnesota 101-73 in second round of NCAA Tournament
With the clock counting down in the first half, Oregon junior guard Maite Cazorla had the ball in hand with her back toward the hoop.
She turned away from Minnesota’s Kenisha Bell, turned back around and found Oregon sophomore guard Sabrina Ionescu open. Ionescu looked at the clock, dropped her shoulder to look like she would drive, instead stepping back behind the 3-point arc and launching a buzzer-beating 3-pointer.
Both teams began to head for the locker rooms but the referees called them back to the court because Ionescu was fouled. She missed the and-1 free throw, but still had 22 points with five rebounds and seven assists at the half with the Ducks leading 51-36.
“I’m still bummed I missed the free throw,” Ionescu said.
Ionescu failed to complete a triple-double one game after recording her 10th of her career. But, she set a Pac-12 record for single-season assists — now 284 — while still collecting 29 points, nine assists and seven rebounds as she led the No. 2 seed Ducks to a 101-73 win over No. 10 seed Minnesota in the NCAA Tournament second round.
The second round game was also Oregon’s 3-point record holder and Eugene native Lexi Bando’s final game at Matthew Knight Arena. She scored 11 points in her final game at Matthew Knight Arena.The win advances the Ducks to the Sweet 16 for the second year in a row after never making it to that stage ever before.
By the end of the first quarter, it was evident that Ionescu would at least come close to yet another triple-double as the sophomore posted eight points, four rebounds and four assists.
Ahead of the game, the Ducks expected a fast tempo from Minnesota, and they got just that. The Gophers came at the Ducks but Oregon managed to box Minnesota out of the paint thanks to Ruthy Hebard, who finished the night with 10 rebounds while also claiming 22 points.
Guard play was a key for both teams, using four-guard systems. Cazorla was set to have her work cut out for her with Bell running the Gopher offense. Cazorla kept Bell to 14 points after Bell posted 26 in the Gophers’ first round win over Green Bay on Friday.
A big part of Oregon’s dominating performance was freshman Satou Sabally’s play. At 6-foot-4, Sabally towered over all but one of Minnesota’s players — 6-foot-5 senior Bryanna Fernstrom. Fernstrom saw limited minutes in the Gophers’ loss.
Oregon’s second half started off hot. The Ducks scored 12 of the first 15 points of the third quarter, five of which belonged to Sabally. Oregon outscored Minnesota 31-14 in the third quarter to hold an 82-50 lead going into the final quarter.
“When you look at them statistically,” Minnesota head coach Marlene Stollings said. “The closest you can compare to them on paper is UConn.”
The Ducks coasted through the fourth quarter with many of their bench players seeing action while starters were rested.
Oregon was outscored by Minnesota 23-19 in the fourth as Oregon went on to win the game 101-73.
Oregon will play the winner of Ohio State and Central Michigan, who play on Monday. That Sweet 16 game will be on March 24 in Spokane, Washington.
For head coach Kelly Graves, who coached Gonzaga for 14 years, there’s a coming home feel, but his focus is on the Ducks.
“I’m just excited because we have the chance to move on and like Sabrina said, win another two-game tournament,” Graves said.
Follow Shawn Medow on Twitter @ShawnMedow
Do you appreciate independent student journalism? Emerald Media Group is a non-profit organization. Please consider a donation to support our mission.