No. 7 Oregon women’s basketball opens its third-straight NCAA Tournament at home Friday night against instate-opponents, 15-seed Portland State, in the first round of the Tournament. The No. 2 seed Ducks (29-4) host the first two rounds of the Tournament at Matthew Knight Arena for the second-straight year.
“This game is the most important game of the year because it’s the one that we’re playing right now and the one that we’re guaranteed,” Oregon junior guard Sabrina Ionescu. “We were that team that came in as a 10-seed and upset teams that overlooked us.”
Oregon ended conference play behind a loss to No. 6 Stanford in the Pac-12 Tournament championship game, while the Vikings (25-7) are coming into the weekend with momentum off a Big Sky Tournament championship victory, securing the Vikings a spot in the NCAA tournament. The Vikings are looking for their first ever NCAA Tournament win, behind a 16-point upset of Big Sky regular season champions and No. 1 seeded Idaho in the conference tournament semi-finals.
Oregon has won 26 of the last 28 games against their northern neighbors, with the last Viking victory over the Ducks coming in 2012 in Eugene. Behind back-to-back Elite Eight runs, the Ducks are 6-2 in the NCAA Tournament in the last two years alone and are hoping to advance past the Regional Final for the first time in program history.
“We know that they’re a potential Final Four team, but we’re excited about the opportunity to come here and play the best basketball we can,” Portland State head coach Lynn Kennedy. “We’re trying to take a couple things away from them early on and then hopefully get into the third quarter.”
Portland State’s 25 season wins is the most of any 15-seed, and the Vikings have lost just three more games than the Ducks this season. The Vikings outshoot Oregon from the free-point line 79 percent to 77 and outrebound the Ducks averaging 39.6 a game to Oregon’s 37.5.
Meanwhile, the Ducks' offense averages 86.1 points per game compared to the Vikings’ 71.7 and their average scoring margin is over 11 points more than the Vikings.
Portland State is the only Big Sky team to make it to the NCAA Tournament, while the Pac-12 boasts six teams, including two No. 2 seeds and No. 4 Oregon State.
Redshirt sophomore guards Sidney Rielley and Ashley Bolston are two of Portland State’s primary outside threats, while six-foot, four-inch forwards Courtney West and Jordan Stotler dominate the Vikings post.
“I think Sidney Rielly is a Pac-12 caliber player. She’s got good range, handles it pretty well and she’s a slasher,” Oregon head coach Kelly Graves said. “Bolston is one of the better players we’ve played this year. She isn’t their leading scorer, but she impacts the game in more ways than anyone they have.”
Graves also said Oregon’s defense will need to cut Portland State’s post play, while Oregon senior forward Oti Gildon said the Duck posts will need to be strong off the shot.
Meanwhile, Portland State is preparing for the Ionescu-Ruthy Hebard pick-and-roll.
“It’s really the combination of [Ionescu] and [Hebard]; there’s no combo like that in the nation,” Kennedy said. “[Ionescu] can breakdown the defense that allows [Hebard] to get in the middle and do her thing inside the key.”
The winner of Friday’s game will play either No. 7 Texas or No. 10 Indiana on Sunday. The Texas-Indiana game will tip at 4 p.m PT on Friday prior to the instate-rival game.
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