Kelly Graves

Oregon women’s basketball hangs on in overtime to beat UCLA 101-94


After missing her first of two free throws down 90-89, Oregon guard Sabrina Ionescu knew she was not going to let her team down. She nailed the second shot, and when the game went to overtime, her renewed competitive fire proved too much for the UCLA. Her 7 points in OT helped Oregon shut the door on the Bruins.

“We had to fight adversity and stay composed, and I think we did,” Ionescu said. “We answered that test well.”

It took all of No. 8 Oregon’s offensive firepower and defensive grit to beat No. 10 UCLA 101-94 on Monday night at Matthew Knight Arena. A crowd of over 7,000 was on the scene to watch the top-10 matchup and honor the two seniors, Lexi Bando and Justine Hall.

Satou Sabally and Maite Cazorla provided much of the offense in the regulation period. Sabally arguably had one of her best games of the season, scoring her first seven attempts from three-point range — she finished 7-of-9 from behind the arc.

Cazorla was a spark whenever Oregon needed a lift of offense. Her 24-point performance earned her entry into Oregon’s 1000-point club, joining Ruthy Hebard and Ionescu who accomplished the same feat last week.

“I thought Maite was huge tonight. That is not easy going agsint the quickest of those guards,” head coach Kelly Graves said. “She showed great resilience.”

Senior guard Jordin Canada was as good as advertised. The senior guard hit multiple and-1 layups and deep three-pointers to keep Oregon’s defense on its toes.

“Jordin Canada and Billings, that’s an amazingly talented team,” Graves said. “Especially Jordin, … she single-handedly wrecked our defense.”

With 7:26 left in the third quarter, Oregon held a 19-point lead. The team could do no wrong, but eventually after enough laps in defensive rotations, UCLA fought its way back.

“We talked about that at halftime,” Ionescu said. “We knew they were going to come back and punch us and we just had to be able to punch back and take it.”

After making her 33 straight field goals, an NCAA record, Hebard finally missed after starting the night 3-for-3. The sophomore forward finished with 14 points on 7-of-11 shooting, while also collecting 11 rebounds.

For the final 6:18 of the fourth quarter, the Bruins did not allow an Oregon field goal. Cazorla went down hard after getting blocked on a layup and needed support while limping to the bench. Then UCLA hit a 3-pointer to take its first lead of the game 90-87 with 2:18 to go. Ionescu kept the team in the game by driving to the hoop and getting fouled multiple times.

Right away, both teams knew the ball would be firmly in Ionescu’s hands. She stole the ball right away and hit a jumper to get the crowd roaring. Cazorla checked back into the game with 90 seconds left, and with the score tied at 94, the ball wound up in Sabally’s hands. She hit a fadeaway jumper to give Oregon the lead. UCLA would not score again.

The Ducks will finish out the regular season in Arizona, playing Arizona State on Friday and Arizona on Sunday to conclude Pac-12 play.

Follow August Howell on Twitter @howell_august

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With No. 8 Oregon’s win over No. 10 UCLA, the Ducks have one hand on the Pac-12 title


Coming into this weekend’s fixtures, Oregon women’s basketball had Monday night’s game against UCLA locked in its sights.

Win or lose, there would be emotions after the game: The team would honor seniors Lexi Bando and Justine Hall during Senior Day ceremonies. Head coach Kelly Graves said it was arguably the biggest game in the Ducks’ history. With a national TV audience watching on ESPN2, future NCAA seedings and the conference title on the line, Graves wasn’t wrong.

“I wish I drank, I’d already grab a beer,” Graves said following Oregon’s 101-94 nail-biting overtime win over UCLA on Monday night.

With the win, the Ducks now sit alone at the top of the conference and have a Pac-12 regular season title within reach. Almost a year removed from going 8-10 in conference play with a freshman-heavy team that made a run to the Elite Eight, this year’s Ducks now have the chance to finish 16-2 in the Pac-12.

“Nobody saw that run coming but I think it just gave us a ton of confidence, especially these two,” Graves said. “And I’ve always felt that players improve the most between their freshmen and sophomore years — they certainly did that. I think it was the perfect storm last year and it just helped propel us.”

On Thursday, No. 9 Oregon, No. 7 UCLA and No. 14 Stanford were all tied at the top of the Pac-12 standings. Then the Bruins fell at No. 15 Oregon State while the Cardinal fell to Cal on Friday. With wins against USC on Friday and UCLA on Monday, the Ducks would grab sole possession of the top of the Pac-12 standings.

Oregon pulled it off with a close double-overtime win against USC on Friday followed by the Monday night win over the Bruins in front of 7,098 fans.

“It was electric. We needed them tonight,” Graves said.” I thought down the stretch they gave us a huge lift especially late in the game and into overtime. I heard them. There was a couple times I think sound actually had feel. That’s pretty neat.”

That feeling might return to Matthew Knight Arena if the Ducks earn the right to host the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament in just over a month’s time.

“This was a great showcase, you guys,” Graves said. “A great national showcase for our fans, our program, for this team.”

The Ducks, now No. 8 in the AP Poll, knew they needed to beat the No. 10 Bruins to get themselves perched atop the standings. They’ve done that.

They still have to beat Arizona State and Arizona on the road, who can both easily play the role of spoiler. But Oregon has a found groove.

Oregon will still travel to Seattle a week from Thursday for the Pac-12 Tournament. There are still two games to play but the Ducks can taste the Pac-12 regular season title, which Oregon last won back when it was still the Pac-10 in 2000.

Now, 18 years later, that title is on track to return.

Follow Shawn Medow on Twitter @ShawnMedow

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Turnovers mar Oregon’s thrilling double-overtime win


Oregon women’s basketball had the first possession of the game on Friday night. Sabrina Ionescu carried it up court and turned it over. USC went the other way to score a basket.

Then, Satou Sabally had possession but gave it up. Once again, USC went down the court to score.

“That’s what they feed off,” head coach Kelly Graves said. “We’re not the quickest team but we can’t be loose with the basketball, we can’t cross it over in front of somebody and expect a different result. It was pick-6 layup.”

The No. 9 Ducks were riddled with turnovers all night long as Oregon surrendered the ball 24 times, in which USC scored 31 points from, in Oregon’s 80-74 double-overtime win over the Trojans.

“It’s really funny, we’re 24-4 and they’re not all going to be pretty,” Graves said. “They’re not all going to be comfortable,you’ve got to win some games like this and we did it.”

As regulation closed, Oregon struggled to inbound the ball on three occasions.

With 30.8 seconds remaining, Oregon had an inbound from its offensive half. It was passed to Lexi Bando, who was locked up and jump ball was called.

The Ducks then inbounded the ball again to Lexi Bando, this time she muffled it and USC stepped out with the ball to give it back to Oregon. The Ducks inbounded the ball once again and this time Ionescu reached for it with a Trojan defender, who was ultimately deemed to touch the ball last after a video review.

Oregon escaped with the ball and found Ruthy Hebard, who was fouled as Oregon finally escaped the backcourt.

Ionescu and fellow guard Maite Cazorla combined for 15 turnovers, which Graves appeared most frustrated by.

“Some of the silly turnovers we’ve got to get rid of,” Graves said. “I don’t know how many times I said ‘you can’t cross over in front, you can’t cross over in front.’ How many times did I say that tonight?”

Hebard responded, “A lot,” to which Graves promptly replied, “8,000.”

The Ducks somehow managed to escape with the win despite the uncharacteristic 24 turnovers. With a big game ahead against No. 7 UCLA on Monday night, the Ducks will have to clean up their passing if they want any chance against the Bruins.

“We average 13 turnovers on the season, we’re actually one of the best in the country at that,” Graves said. “This is an aberration, this is one game. They turned us over a little bit last time too. Is it a trend? No. It was a poor job tonight. We’ll do better next time.”

Follow Shawn Medow on Twitter @ShawnMedow

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Oregon owns the paint in win over No. 25 Cal

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

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Alleyene, Ducks Stun 19th Ranked Stanford

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOregon posted an unlikely victory for Senior Day at Matthew Knight Arena, as they convincingly took down #19 Stanford, 62-55, on Sunday afternoon.

Oregon (13-16, 6-12 Pac-12) defeated a Stanford (21-9, 13-5 Pac-12) team that had upset conference champion Oregon State just last Friday. The win was a long time coming, as Stanford’s 18 game win streak against the Ducks was finally broken.

After the game, head coach Kelly Graves said, “Stanford is the standard by which everyone in this conference is judged, and to do what we did tonight I think speaks to the character of our team and how they’ve really improved. They put it together tonight, they kept their composure and they did it. I’m really, really proud of this group. They deserved a win like this.”

Oregon gave up a 7-0 run to start the game and allowed the Cardinal to rack up a 14-2 run of their own, going up 14-9 midway in the first period.

“We went with the seniors to start, so we started in a zone (defense), and that didn’t work that well for us…I thought once we switched to man-to-man, went smaller for the rest of the game, I just thought we matched up better with (Stanford),” said Graves.

The rest of the first period was tightly contested, and the Cardinal went into halftime with a one point lead largely off their longball, as they went 5-12 on threes in the first half.

Stanford held their edge for the first five minutes of the second half and then Oregon subtly took over the rest of the game. The Ducks got offensive production from more than Jillian Alleyne – a critical component, given that Lexi Bando was still out with an injury and the Ducks certainly missed her presence in Friday’s game against Cal. Oregon also defended better against Stanford’s long shooters, and the Cardinal only scored 7.7% from downtown on 1-13 shooting in the second half.

Senior Amanda Delgado had the play of the game at about the seven minute mark of the second half. A pass was sent to Drea Toler, who (because she was moving quickly and through no fault of her own) moved inside and missed the pass. The ball was going out of bounds but Delgado retrieved it and then turned around for a three point shot that put the Ducks up 11 points and spelled doom for Stanford.

“For us being seniors and having this win to close out Matt Knight is a great feeling,” said Delgado, after the game. “We are never going to play there…unless we come back for an alumni game, but we are never going to play there again. To get that win in front of all those fans and our family in the stands…it was an indescribable feeling for all of us. It ranks pretty high up there.”

The Cardinal had only one player, Kaylee Johnson, in double digits with 11 points. Incredibly, Stanford only had two free throw attempts the entire game.

Jillian Alleyne scored another double-double and led Oregon scorers with 22 points to go with her 12 rebounds. Lexi Peterson added 11 and Amanda Delgado scored 10, including 2-3 from beyond the arc. The Ducks shot well from the line, going 11-15 for 73%.

Oregon closes out its regular season with a decisive win against the Cardinal, and now looks forward to the Pac-12 tournament, which begins this coming Thursday at Key Arena in Seattle. Oregon will play a rubber match in the first round against Washington State; the Ducks lost against them in Eugene early in the season, but came out victorious against the Cougars a few weeks ago in Pullman. Tipoff is 11:30 am on Thu, Mar 5th.

~ Carl Blackwell


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