That was the formula Oregon used to advance to its second ever Elite 8 as the Ducks defeated 11-seed Central Michigan 83-69 Saturday night in Spokane.
No. 1 seed Notre Dame and its 32-3 record are waiting for a Monday night showdown with a trip to the Final 4 on the line. Oregon women’s basketball has never been to the Final 4 and this team is 40 minutes away from going to Columbus.
The Chippewas came into Spokane full of confidence after they upset Ohio State last week on a barrage of three pointers. But against the Ducks, Central Michigan had trouble making those long distance shots making just 7-of-27 for the game.
Something else the Chippewas had trouble with was Ruthy Hebard.
The sophomore center torched the MAC champs for 23 points, 16 in the first half, 14 rebounds and six blocks. Oregon took a 40-26 halftime lead thanks to the efforts of Hebard on the inside.
Although the Ducks led by 14 at halftime, the collective looks on their faces said they weren’t very happy with their performance.
That disappointed extended into the third quarter when Presley Hudson started to hit 30-footers and the Chippewas briefly made it a nine-point game (56-47) with Cassy Breen’s three with 4:34 remaining.
Oregon called timeout, clamped up the defense and held Central Michigan to just two points for the rest of the quarter.
While the Chippewas were having trouble scoring, Sabrina Ionescu wasn’t.
She was quiet in the first half, but Ionescu found her offensive rhythm in the second half and her three to open up the fourth quarter gave the Ducks their biggest lead, 69-48. The Pac-12 Player of the Year just missed her 11th career triple trouble and had to “settle” for 16 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds.
The Ducks showed why they are difficult to defend because it’s not always the Ruthy and Sabrina Show. The role players are very capable of hurting opponents as well and sometimes you don’t know which role players that will be.
Spokane native Oti Gildon came off the bench to score 10 points and grab seven rebounds in front of many of her fans. Lexi Bando sank four from long distance and wound up with 14 points.
But in order to go to the Final 4, Oregon is going to have to be hitting on all cylinders. The Irish defeated a tough Texas A&M team 90-84 earlier. Their only three losses came to UConn and Louisville twice.
Oregon joined the Beavers and UCLA in the Elite 8 as the Pac-12 is more than represented in this year’s Big Dance. The Ducks hope to keep on dancing after Monday.
~ Don Smalley
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