Eugene – Sabrina Ionescu spun back around toward her left and got to the free throw line. She stopped and shot a jumper.
The shot gave No. 8 Oregon a 98-94 lead over the No. 10 UCLA Bruins with 24.2 seconds left in OT. The Ducks then went on to hit three more free throws and win by a final tally of 101-94 on senior night.
Ionescu had 23 points and 12 assists on the night, but was only 6-16 on free throws. It was one of those misses that proved to be fuel for her fire down the stretch.
“After missing that free throw, I knew I wasn’t going to let my team down, our seniors down, but I think it tested us,” Ionescu said.
She didn’t let her team down in overtime, as she had seven of Oregon’s 11 Oregon points. The win put the Ducks in sole possession of first place in the Pac-12, with a one-game lead over second-place Stanford.
Satou Sabally, who was scoreless Friday against USC, had 25 points on 9-of-15 shooting for ORegon, including 7-of-9 from beyond the arc. Maite Cazorla had 24 points and Ruthy Hebard, 14.
Oregon coach Kelly Graves was impressed by the game Sabally had against what he called an elite UCLA team. He also had high praise for Cazorla.
“I thought for a freshman in this kind of environment, it just shows what she’s capable of doing,” Graves said of Sabally. “I thought Maite was huge tonight. It’s not easy going against the quickness of those guards.”
Cazorla did have an injury scare when she drove to the basket on a fast-break, went up for the shot and landed into the basket stanchion. After tears and help from team trainers, she had to be helped off the court. However, she did come back to finish out the game in overtime.
Jordin Canada and Monique Billings each scored 26 points for the Bruins, with Canada also dishing 13 assists, and Billings grabbing 10 rebounds. Kennedy Burke and Japreece Dean each added 13 points.
UCLA kept chipping away at Oregon’s big lead in the third. They led by as much as 19, with 7:26 to go in the third quarter, before the Bruins upped the pressure and the intensity to cut the lead to seven by the end of the period. The visitors outscored the hosts 30-21 in the frame. Graves acknowledged his team’s lull.
“I thought we lost focus and intensity,” he said. “But let’s face it. Jordin Canada and Monique Billings, that’s an amazingly talented team.”
Lajahna Drummer had a chance to win the game for UCLA at the end of regulation, but missed a layup at the buzzer, sending the game into overtime, as the teams were tied at 90 points. The Ducks outscored the Bruins, 11-4 in the extra period.
UCLA coach Cori Close commended her team’s valiant effort to fight back from the gaping deficit.
“It’s a mixed bag. On the one hand, I’m so proud of the aggression and the passion in which they played in the second half, and I’m so bewildered by how we came out in the first,” Close said.
“We’ve got to channel how we play at our best and learn from what led to that and put it into action.”
In the third quarter, Close thought there was no other option for her team, but to fight back.
“Our backs were against the wall,” she said. “You had to come swingin’ and making plays together and playing with a passion and aggression.”
Going into the game, Canada needed five assists to tie the Pac-12 career assists record. She finished the night well over the mark to break the 26-year-old record.
“It’s a great honor, you know, to be amongst the legends, the legacy and I couldn’t have done it without my teammates,” Canada said. “That’s what I came here to do.”
Canada took control in the third quarter, as she is known for doing, and ignited the comeback.
“We didn’t have a good start to the first half, but I had to come out and lead my team with energy and effort,” she said.
After setting a Division I record – for both women and men – for consecutive made shots with 33, Hebard finally missed. She got a hand from the crowd when the record was snapped.
Billings said she had focused on trying to shut Hebard down on defense.
“I just tried to deny her touches early,” Billings said. “I know she likes to get deep into the paint and she likes that right hand, so I was just trying to deny it.”
The raucous crowd of 7,098 created a great atmosphere for the matchup, which was broadcast on ESPN2. Fans gave UCLA players an ovation as they left the court.
It was also Oregon’s senior night, honoring Lexi Bando and Justine Hall. Eugene native Bando was the first recruit coach Kelly Graves took a chance on, as she trusted the vision Graves had for the program. Hall was a transfer from Purdue.
— Derek Tahara (@DerekTahara) February 20, 2018
Here is Bando’s speech.
Justine Hall’s senior speech after Oregon’s 101-94 OT win against UCLA. pic.twitter.com/NLaVwcQQ64
— Derek Tahara (@DerekTahara) February 20, 2018
Here is Hall’s senior speech.
Oregon will close out the regular season this weekend in Arizona. UCLA stays home to host the Mountain schools.
Sierra Webster contributed to this report.