No. 9 Oregon began a three-game stretch against Southeastern Conference opponents on Wednesday with a visit to No. 5 Mississippi State. The Ducks could not hang with the Bulldogs, losing 90-79.
Sophomore guard Sabrina Ionescu, who turned the ball over only four times in the past four games, had four turnovers in the loss. The Ducks as a team turned the ball over 15 times, the most since they recorded 16 in their win over Oklahoma in the PK80.
Ruthy Hebard led the Ducks with 25 points on 11-of-12 shooting while Ionescu finished with 15 and Satou Sabally with 17.
The game stayed close to start, with the Ducks keeping pace with last year’s national runners-up. But the Bulldogs, led by 21 first-half points by Teaira McCowan, began to flex their muscles.
McCowan went on to finish the game with a career-high 35 points along with 19 rebounds while her teammate Victoria Vivians added 30 points.
At halftime, Oregon trailed 45-33 following a 13-2 run by the Bulldogs.
Hebard led the Ducks with 12 points from perfect 5-of-5 shooting while also collecting three rebounds. Ionescu had 10 points for the Ducks at the intermission.
The second half did not prove to be much better for Oregon as Mississippi State started to run away with the game.
At the end of the third quarter, Oregon trailed 70-55 with three Ducks in double-digits: Hebard, Ionescu and Sabally. The trio made up 40 of Oregon’s 55 points first-half points.
The Ducks cut a 20-point Mississippi State lead to ten at 72-62 with 7:51 left in the game but never got within single-digits as the Bulldogs fought off Oregon’s late push.
Oregon travels back to Eugene to host Ole Miss on Sunday at 1 p.m. PT before heading to Las Vegas for the Duel in the Desert tournament to round off nonconference play.
Follow Shawn Medow on Twitter @ShawnMedow