The crowd at Matthew Knight Arena was on its feet after Maite Cazorla assisted and then scored on back-to-back baskets in the second quarter.
Over 4,000 people were in attendance to see No. 8 Oregon beat No. 18 Arizona State, 74-64, and witness Cazorla score 15 points on 6-of-11 shooting with five assists.
“She was terrific tonight and has been the entire league season,” Oregon head coach Kelly Graves said. “She is that calming influence. … She is our rock.”
Cazorla showed her patience plenty of times throughout the game. In the third, she demonstrated her ball control by getting an assists from a textbook pick and roll with Ruthy Hebard. The very next play she faked the pass to Hebard for an easy, open layup all to herself.
“She is the most patient player I’ve ever coached in the pick and roll. She’s so good in that,” Graves said.
Cazorla’s defense also was on display tonight, as she had two steals and forced her opponent into tough shots.
After Arizona State trimmed Oregon’s 38-34 lead at halftime, Cazorla and Sabrina Ionescu led the charge in the second half. The Ducks’ 16-0 run closed the door on Arizona State’s comeback attempt. Their quick tempo made for a 21-5 scoring advantage in the third quarter.
With just under a minute and a half to go in the third, Oregon was leading, 57-37, and shooting 72.7 percent from the field.
“It was a good all-around game. I wish we could have finished a little better in the second and fourth quarters. But in the first and third that was as good as we’ve played all year,” Graves said.
Cazorla is now averaging 10.5 points per game, after averaging a little under nine points in nonconference games. She has increased her scoring during league games.
“I think we need that defensive intensity in order to win, especially against a great Arizona State team,” Ionescu said. “They’re not going to beat themselves. I think our defensive intensity led to a great offense tonight, and that was both inside and out.”
While Ionescu has been putting up larger statistics per game, it’s incredibly beneficial to have a reliable veteran guard like Cazorla who plays the game at her own pace.
Cazorla also made three 3-point jumpers, and aside from Ionescu and Hebard (37), she logged the most minutes this game (36). Currently, Oregon is seventh in the NCAA in assists (20.4) per game, and as the starting point guard, Carzorla has a huge hand in that.
On her own, Carzorla is 23rd in the NCAA with 96 assists, and is 32nd in assists per game at 5.6, according to GoDucks.com.
This is the ninth win in a row for Oregon, now 12-0 at home this season. The next game for Oregon is against Oregon State in Corvallis on January 19.
Follow August Howell on Twitter @howell_august