With the shot clock winding down from five seconds, Oregon’s Sabrina Ionescu had the ball in her hands as she dribbled across the logo. Without any notion of panic written on her face, she ever so smoothly took her usual one-two hop into her shot and calmly drained a deep three as the buzzer turned red.
The crowd erupted and rose to its feet. The Oregon bench immediately jumped up to cheer on their teammate.
This is normal for Ionescu. To hit the deepest three of the game in-stride and with ease.
“I practice that shot a lot, so I wasn’t nervous about the distance. And it ended up being a good shot,” Ionescu said.
That shot not only sparked Oregon’s hot third quarter start, but ignited a 25 point scoring turn around by the superstar guard.
To have the opportunity to play the world’s best team, comprised of multiple gold medal winners and numerous WNBA championships, is a big enough feat in itself. To be in the center of that feat, however, just adds to the game’s magnitude.
Yet, Ionescu didn’t succumb to the pressure or listen to any of the background noise. No matter who her opponent is or what the odds, she will always play her game.
She told her teammates before the game to give it their best shot, not worry about the score or about winning or losing and just play Duck basketball.
In one of the biggest season openers in program history, the Ducks grinded out a rare win against the best team in the world in a narrow victory 93-86. No other collegiate team has defeated Team USA since 1999. And who to lead the Ducks to victory than none other than the NCAA’s leader in triple-doubles.
Ionescu continued her roll, scoring a hard-earned 20 out of the team’s 30 points in the third quarter after a rocky first half start.
“In that third quarter, I just continued to try and attack the rim,” Ionescu said. “If they weren’t going to stop me I was going to get to the rim, and I did that.”
No stranger to high levels of competition, last seasons Wade Trophy winner shined against the high levels of talent that Team USA brings and showcased why she is considered the No. 1 draft pick for the WNBA next year.
She finished the game with a game-high 30 points, 25 of them coming from the second half.
Saturday’s exhibition game proved that she can not only play up to the level of the competition, but be successful in doing so. Even with her game face on, Ionescu could not help but crack a smile about the opportunity to play against the best.
“Being on the same court as some of those players, I’ve never dreamed about or imagined. Just to be able to touch the same ball that they do is a blessing for me,” Ionescu said.
Team USA, and especially WNBA veteran Sue Bird, praised the tremendous amount of talent that the senior holds and knows that her career will take off in the league. But for now, her best advice is to just enjoy it.
“You only get to go to college once, so she should just soak it all in. She needs to just enjoy this ride. She’s going to want to finish it right,” Bird said.
Follow Carly on Twitter @carlyebisuya.