SportsWomen's Basketball

Oregon Sweet 16 notes: Ducks arrive a day late, Gildon’s homecoming and more

SPOKANE, Wash. — Oregon’s first day at Spokane Arena wrapped up shortly after shortly after 4 p.m. on Friday afternoon.

The two-seeded Ducks will return to the arena Saturday for their Sweet 16 matchup with 11th-seeded Central Michigan (3 p.m. PT on ESPN) for a chance to go to the Elite Eight for the second time in as many years.

Here are some notes from Oregon’s media availability:

Delayed trip

Oregon took its time getting to Spokane.

The Ducks, who were originally scheduled to fly into Spokane on Thursday, had to delay their trip to Friday morning because of an issue with their plane.

“[The flight crew] were like, ‘Yeah, so we’re missing this part of the plane we kinda need,’” Oti Gildon said.

Players went home and waited for updates for a several hours before hearing that the flight would be pushed to early Friday morning. They finally boarded around 7 a.m. and made it to Spokane without issue.

“We’re excited to be here. The hotel is nice. The beds were amazing,” Sabrina Ionescu said. “It’s just going to be a fun experience for us regardless of the plane issues.”

Gildon returns home

Oregon’s plane issue also delayed Gildon’s homecoming.

Gildon moved to Spokane when she was in middle school but she made a name for herself in the years that followed. She won two Washington state titles in high school with Gonzaga Prep and became a five-star prospect before joining the Ducks in 2016. Gildon said that this trip is the first time in three years that she’s returned.

Oregon Ducks forward Oti Gildon speaks to members of the media in the locker room before practice. The Oregon Ducks participate in media interviews at the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena in Spokane, Wash. on Friday, March 23, 2018. (Adam Eberhardt/Emerald)

“It’s awesome,” she said. “A lot of people haven’t seen me play since high school, especially live, so it’s good to come home and play, especially with the team’s success that we’re having.”

She’s already gotten “quite a few” texts from friends and family, and said that a group of her high school friends left a signed poster and t-shirt for her in the hotel. The Ducks were also supposed to have dinner at Gildon’s home on Thursday but had to postpone due to their travel issues.

“My mom made barbeque ribs, baked beans, corn on the cob and potato salad,” Gildon said. “My family was ready to see me and see everyone, my little brother, he’s 3, he loves the team and was excited to see everyone.”

But as the saying goes, better late than never: the Ducks plan on going to the Gildon’s for dinner on Friday night.

“Ain’t nothing like some leftovers,” Gildon said.

Hebard vs. Moore

Slowing down Central Michigan forward Tinara Moore will be an emphasis for Oregon on Saturday and Ruthy Hebard will more than likely be tasked with the challenge.

Moore, who took home MAC Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year awards this season, averages team-highs in points (18.9), rebounds (9.7), and blocks (2.29) per game. She even has some touch from outside and has gone 14-for-43 from three this season.

“She’s definitely a great post player,” Hebard said. “She was one of the best ones in her conference, I heard. I watched a little film. She has a really good shot outside. I’m definitely going to have to stay out the whole time, be physical, hope my size will do me well on Saturday.”

Ducks loose, having fun

Oregon Ducks guard Sabrina Ionescu (left), Oregon Ducks forward Ruthy Hebard (center) and Oregon Ducks guard Maite Cazorla (right) laugh while speaking to the media during interviews at the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena in Spokane, Wash. on Friday, March 23, 2018. (Adam Eberhardt/Emerald)

The Ducks have said that one of the keys to their success is that they have fun and stay loose. That’s been evident this week.

While Ionescu was speaking with media before Oregon’s practice on Wednesday in Eugene, several Ducks playfully shouted at her while she was doing interviews.

“You got jokes today!” she yelled back with a laugh.

The Ducks were at it again on Friday. They appeared loose during the open locker rooms, laughing and joking among themselves, while Mallory McGwire carried a microphone and interviewed her teammates for an Oregon team video crew. Even during the formal press conference, Ionescu, Hebard, and Maite Cazorla couldn’t hold back their laughter at times. 

Watch the full press conferences below.

Head coach Kelly Graves

Sabrina Ionescu, Ruthy Hebard, Maite Cazorla

Follow Gus Morris on Twitter @JustGusMorris

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Gus Morris

Gus Morris

Gus Morris covers Oregon football, basketball and women's golf for the Emerald. Caffeine addict. Bay Area sports. I know words, I have the best words.