Ruthy Hebard’s presence felt in Oregon’s second round victory over Minnesota
In the second quarter of the No. 6 seeded Oregon Ducks’ 101-73 second round win over the Minnesota Golden Gophers, the dominant post play of Oregon’s 6-foot-4-inch forward Ruthy Hebard was again on display at Matthew Knight Arena.
Gophers guard Jessie Edwards tried to shoot down low but Hebard smashed one of her four blocked shots back into her body. Not wanting to get her shot blocked again, Edwards tried to get the ball to her teammate Kenisha Bell, but Justine Hall blocked that too. Hebard was able to snag the ball while unbalanced, throw the ball off the Minnesota player and give Oregon another possession.
“[The Gophers] kind of relaxed defensively,” Hebard said. “And we got the ball inside a lot, so that was really nice to see. Everyone was playing great defense, getting in the passing lanes and getting steals was all working well for us.”
Plays like this is what led to Oregon limiting the Gophers to 18 second-chance points and holding a 46-18 advantage in the paint, and the Ducks successfully kept the explosive Gophers uptempo offense held down until it was too late.
When preparing for Saturday’s game, both coaches agreed, the game was going to be an up tempo, high scoring shootout because of the guard play. Both teams entered Saturday’s matchup in the top nine in scoring offense, partially because both utilize a four-guard lineup; however, the Ducks held a big advantage with their size down by the basket led by the Fairbanks, Alaska, native.
The Golden Gophers starting lineup relied on 6-foot-5-inch Bryanna Fernstrom to guard Hebard, but Fernstrom was unable to do much to contain Hebard who finished the game with 22 points and 10 rebounds for her 12th double-double of the season.
Defensively, the post players were focusing on getting back on defense instead of going for the rebound with every opportunity. Despite their efforts to hustle back on defense, the Ducks collected 21 more rebounds than the Golden Gophers.
It wasn’t just the Gophers that struggled with the size of the Oregon post players during Oregon’s two wins in the Eugene Regional. In Oregon’s 88-45 first round win over the Seattle Redhawks, the height of the Oregon players was even impacting the coaches.
“One time I looked up and we were trying to rebound, and I couldn’t even see my players,” Seattle head coach Suzy Barcomb said. “They had 6-7, 6-5 out there.”
It was clear that the Ducks held the size advantage throughout the Eugene Regional, but now as the team heads to Spokane to play in the Sweet 16, the advantages that made the first two games so sweet, may not be there as the team gets deeper into the NCAA Tournament.
“I think our coaches saw that we were going to be able to accomplish this when they recruited us,” Oregon guard Sabrina Ionescu said. “But now it’s another two-game tournament that we’re going into in Spokane and we’re going to play like we’ve been playing and hopefully get two wins there.”
Follow Zak Laster on Twitter @zlast3445
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