With 6.4 seconds to play, Sabrina Ionescu stepped to the line for the biggest free throws of her young collegiate career.
In front of a raucous, predominantly pro-Washington sell-out crowd of 9,686 at KeyArena in Seattle, Oregon trailed by one.
The freshman made the first. Tie game.
The second: Good. One point lead.
“I knew I was going to hit the free throws, to be honest with you,” Ionescu candidly said after the game. “I’ve been there a few times. My freshman year I missed it to win the game. So I told myself I wasn’t going to do that again. But I was just excited to be put in that position.”
Kelsey Plum then had the chance to be hero for the hometown crowd.
“There were two people on me, but there wasn’t a lot of time left, so I just tried to get it up there,” she said.
But Ruthy Hebard got a hand on her last-second heave, and the Ducks sealed a 70-69 upset over the Huskies. Plum had 34 points to lead all scorers, and Chantel Osahor grabbed a Pac-12 Tournament record 27 rebounds. Lexi Bando had a team-high 23 points for the Ducks, while Ionescu finished with 18.
The one-point margin was a fitting end to a game that neither side ever trailed by double digits, and had 11 lead changes.
Oregon led by five after the first quarter, but a 6-0 UW run to start the second gave the Huskies the advantage. The teams traded baskets throughout the quarter, with the Ducks holding a one-point lead at the break.
Washington outscored the Ducks 26-19 in the third, and took its largest lead of the game after a Plum 3-pointer put the Huskies up 60-51 with nine minutes to play.
That’s when Bando took over.
The junior scored the next 11 Oregon points, going 3-for-3 from 3-point range to bring the Ducks within two. A jumper from Ionescu tied the game at 64 with five minutes to play.
“I know I needed to step up, and Sabrina was getting me the ball,” Bando said. “I just had the mindset, ‘I need to shoot. I need to shoot,’ and the ball ended up going in tonight.”
A three-point play from Osahor with just over three minutes left put the Huskies back on top. A Bando jumper with one minute to go brought the Ducks back within one.
With a chance to shore up their lead, Aarion McDonald was called for an offensive foul on a UW inbounds play with 49 seconds to play, giving Oregon the ball with a chance to take the lead. While Ionescu missed her first jumper with less than 30 seconds left, Oti Gildon forced a jump ball in the ensuing scrum, keeping possession with the Ducks.
A foul from McDonald on a drive from Ionescu sent her to the line for the game-winning free throws.
With the win, Oregon advances to play Stanford at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday night.
“The thing that I’ve always appreciated about Stanford — even before I got in the Pac-12 — was they just never beat themselves,” Graves said. “They’re so poised. They’re so solid. They rarely make mistakes. So they’ll test us at both ends of the floor, offensively, defensively.”
Washington now awaits its NCAA Tournament seeding. Neighbors remains hopeful that the team will host first and second round games.
“Preliminarily looking, I didn’t think there was any way we could fall out of the 3 seed just based on who the other four seeds were and what their resumés were,” he said. ” … If we don’t end up getting the host, then we’ll go back to work to try to figure it out.”
No matter the seeding, Plum said the team is prepared for whatever is next.
“We’ll be ready in March,” Plum said. “I’m not going to miss like that again.”
Kelsey Plum became the third player in NCAA history to score 1,000 points in a season, with a lay up in the third quarter … With the 9,686 sellout, the evening session on Friday was the highest-attended session in Pac-12 Tournament history … Oregon is the lone team to beat a higher seed in the first two days of the tournament … Lexi Bando became the 28th player in Oregon history to reach the 1,000-point plateau … Chantel Osahor had her 27th double-double of the year, which leads the nation.