Sabrina Ionescu screamed in triumph after making an and-1 layup off an offensive rebound by Ruthy Hebard. Oregon was in the middle of a 13-2 run and had just extended its lead 37-23 over No. 25 Cal.
Ionescu had her fingerprints all over No. 6 Oregon’s 91-54 win against the Bears on Friday night. Oregon not only outscored Cal from the 3-point line, 9-3, but also dominated points in the paint, 46-28. It was Oregon’s sixth largest conference win in history, and it’s largest since 2002.
Even with Lexi Bando, one of Oregon’s all-time best shooters out with injury for the past few weeks, the team has still been able to score consistently from 3. However, in tonight’s win over Cal, much of the emphasis was on cutting to the inside and finishing in the paint.
“I thought we played a great game tonight at both ends of the floor,” head coach Kelly Graves said. “I loved our energy, our focus, our intensity for 40 minutes. I thought we had a good gameplay going in, and we executed it.”
Much of that gameplay revolved around guards slashing into the paint, and then passing to the forwards for layups. The team also out-rebounded the Bears 40-28, and more often than not, were able to capitalize off the second-chance points. Graves though the interior defense was key in containing Kristine Anigwe, one of the best center’s in the nation.
“We covered down and gave them help so they didn’t have to do it one-on-one, and things just started to snowball,” Graves said.
Freshman Anneli Maley, who tied her career-high nine points, had four rebounds, two offensive and two defensive, in her 16 minutes off the bench. With three minutes left in the third quarter, and Oregon ahead by 26 points, Maley got an offensive rebound which led to a Ionescu 3-pointer.
“I just try to go in and do my part. I’m surrounded by great teammates, so they’ll find me,” Maley said. “It’s hard not to thrive in an environment where everyone is so supportive and everyone helps each other.”
The Ducks presence in the paint and at the glass is thanks to the height of the three starting forwards: Hebard, Sabally and Mallory McGwire. Those three combined for 17 of Oregon’s 40 rebounds.
The Ducks will have to do it all again on Sunday against a strong No. 24 Stanford, and once again figure it out without the outside shooting of Bando. They seem to have figured it out, though, from the inside.
Follow August Howell on Twitter @howell_august