For the third straight year the Oregon Ducks have moved on to the second round in the NCAA Tournament, and for the second consecutive year, they’ll be hosting the game in Eugene in front of their home crowd at Matthew Knight Arena.
The No. 2-seed Ducks (30-4) take on No. 10 seed Indiana (21-12) Sunday at 6 p.m., marking the first meeting between the two schools in over 30 years.
“We’ve played in this tournament in each of the last two years and it’s pretty much the same group,” Oregon head coach Kelly Graves said. “So, we’ve navigated this round and I think they’ve handled it well over the last couple of years. But with each round, the pressure gets a little bit greater and the opponent gets a little bit better, so, you just have to let all that noise go.”
Indiana upset No. 7-seed Texas, 69-65, Friday night, for the program’s second first-round win in Tournament history. The Hoosiers outscored the Longhorns in three quarters, led by four players all scoring in double-digits.
“I sense the eagerness in our players right now,” Indiana head coach Teri Moren said. “I think that they feel good about what they did last night, but they realize that they have a tall task tomorrow night. … You see the media talking about Oregon throughout the season and about players like Sabrina. You just get an appreciation of what they’ve been able to do here.”
For the past three days, Oregon native and Indiana sophomore Bendu Yeaney has convinced her team to stop by one of her favorite coffee chains: Dutch Bros. Coffee. Yeaney, who graduated from Saint Mary’s Academy in Portland, scored 17 points along with six rebounds, three assists and three steals in her homecoming game Friday night. She said she’s always imagined playing a game a Matthew Knight Arena.
“I had my family and my friends cheering me on, cheering our team on,” she said. “We got the win so I was happy about that; my first win on Matthew Knight Arena being a college player. It was crazy.”
Yeaney and the Hoosiers pose a familiar threat to Oregon, as the Ducks played No. 10 Maryland last year in the same round. And the Ducks know to never doubt a 10th-seeded team.
In the 2017 NCAA Tournament, Oregon was in same shoes as Indiana. As a No. 10 seed, the Ducks upset No. 7-seed Temple in the first round and rode the momentum to the program’s first Elite Eight appearance, which included beating No. 2-seed Duke and third-seeded Maryland.
“They’ve won seven postseason games in a row,” Graves said, including Indiana’s 2018 WNIT title. “So, they know how to win in a one-and-done kind of setting. They’re a dangerous team. I like this group. I think they mirror us in a lot of ways. They run a lot of sets and they execute really well.”
Oregon, who ran through No. 15-seed Portland State, 78-40 on Friday night, will be focusing on slowing down the fast-paced play-making of Hoosier point guard Ali Patberg.
“She’s a heckuva player,” Graves said. “She’s that emotional leader that really drives them; very similar to what Sabrina does for us.”
Junior forward Ruthy Hebard led Friday’s game for the Ducks, scoring 22 points, grabbing 11 rebounds and four steals. After underperforming in the Pac-12 Tournament just two weeks prior, sophomore Satou Sabally also had a big night, scoring 21 points and earning a career-high 16 rebounds.
Sunday’s second-round matchup will tip-off at 6 p.m. against the Ducks and Hoosiers at Matthew Knight Arena. The winner will advance to the Sweet 16 and play at the Moda Center in Portland next weekend.
Follow Maggie Vanoni on Twitter: @maggie_vanoni