SEATTLE — You could call it old-school basketball, and you wouldn’t be wrong.
In a game that featured some of the college basketball’s most electric shooters, it was sensational post play from forward Ruthy Hebard that carried the Ducks to their 65-62 comeback win over the UCLA Bruins in the semifinal round of the 2018 Women’s Pac-12 Tournament.
The sophomore posted her second consecutive double-double of the tournament with 15 points and 13 rebounds – nearly half of the 31 boards the Ducks grabbed. Hebard has snagged 49 boards over the past five games, good for 27 percent of her team’s rebounds.
Going into the game, there was little doubt things would get physical with two of the country’s best post players going head to head in forward Monique Billings and Hebard. When the Bruins took on Cal on Friday night, the Bears were unable to keep pace with UCLA without getting into foul trouble.
As a senior, Billings is adept at playing hard, but clean, basketball. Despite being just a sophomore, Hebard didn’t bite.
“I just try to get good position,” Hebard said. “We needed to get rebounds to stop this team on both sides, and I just tried to shove her under a little bit to get those extra one, extra two rebounds.”
It’s not the first time she’s matched up against a tenacious senior from a Los Angeles school. In the Ducks’ double-overtime win over USC in February, Trojans senior Kristen Simon pushed Hebard all game. It wasn’t enough to phase her then, either.
Early on, it looked like UCLA was going to dominate the boards. In particular, the Ducks were completely outmatched on the offensive glass, managing just four boards on that end in the first half. Hebard played tough on the other end, grabbing six defensive rebounds.
She was also instrumental in one of the Ducks’ key goals: keeping Bruins star Jordin Canada out of the lane. After torching Oregon for 14 points in the first half, Canada was held to just five points in the final period. While she’s deadly from the perimeter, the 5-foot-6-inch guard matches up poorly with Hebard’s 6-foot-4-inch frame in the paint, and it showed.
Her smothering presence inside forced UCLA to stick to jump shots in the second half, where they managed just 33 percent shooting from the field. In turn, that opened the door for the Ducks to come roaring back into the game.
The rebounds were only half of Hebard’s herculean effort, however. She had 12 of her team’s 22 points in the paint, while fighting through contact on nearly every layup.
The Bruins, like many of the Ducks’ other opponents, knew that they had to respect Hebard’s strength in the paint. On Saturday she proved that she’s nothing short of a force of nature – you can prepare for the storm, but sometimes, you just can’t stop it.
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