Oregon’s new commitment to defense shows against CSUN

Maite Cazorla scores two of her 10 points on the night. Photo courtesy of Oregon Athletics.
Maite Cazorla scores two of her 10 points on the night. Photo courtesy of Oregon Athletics.

Eugene – The No. 11 Oregon Ducks used stifling defense to blow out Cal State Northridge in their season opener Friday, 91-43.

Sophomore guard Sabrina Ionescu led five Oregon players in double figures with 15 points, seven assists and six rebounds. Ruthy Hebard had 11 points and eight rebounds, and freshman Satou Sabally came off the bench for 11 points. Mallory McGwire and Maite Cazorla each added 10.

After unexpectedly vaulting to the Elite 8 in last year’s NCAA Tournament on the strength of their offense, Duck coach Kelly Graves asked his players over the summer to commit to defense. Their acceptance was apparent against the Matadors.

On one of the first defensive possessions of the game, senior guard Lexi Bando stepped into the passing lane and got a steal, creating a CSUN turnover – one of 29 on the night for the visitors. Things got no better for the Matadors, as they posted only three steals to 21 for Oregon.

“We’re athletic and long and it’s so fun to be out there, especially on defense because we tip balls,” Ionescu said.

Oregon’s swarming help-defense limited CSUN’s shooting to 26.7 percent from the field and 23.3 percent from the three-point line. Graves said the Duck defense set the tone for the match up.

“I think we just got them off their game early, and that was a good sign,” he said. “We’re not the most athletic team in the world, but if we’re playing good team defense and we’re in sync, then we’ll create some turnovers.”

Channon Fluker led the Matadors with nine points and nine rebounds.

Though defense was key, Oregon was equally-potent on the offensive end, shooting 44.7 percent on the night and committing only nine turnovers. Graves was pleased with the performance.

“I thought we came out with intensity right off the bat,” he said. “I thought offensively and defensively, we were on point. Once we got it going, we were sharing the basketball. As a coach what I really appreciate the most is two or three or four passes.”

The Ducks next face Drake on Sunday.