Eugene, Ore. – What began as a midseason showdown between two Pac-12 Conference superpowers turned into a Sabrina Ionescu-led blowout, as the No. 6 Oregon Ducks routed No. 3 Stanford, 87-55.
The senior guard, who has notched an NCAA-record 22 career triple-doubles, cemented her legacy in Thursday night’s match up, scoring a career-high 37 points and breaking Oregon’s 36-year-old career points record to lead the Ducks.
With 2:21 remaining, Ionescu hit a step back mid-range jumper and coach Kelly Graves called a timeout. As the Northern California native came out of the game to the roar of the 12,218 fans in attendance, she saluted the Stanford bench, saying later that she grew up in the shadow of the standard the program set in women’s basketball.
When told of her scoring record earlier in the game, Ionescu looked as confused as she had when she notched her last triple-double a week ago.
“I didn’t know they said something at the game,” she said. Then she paused. “Did they?”
Oregon shot poorly to start, and trailed at the end of the first quarter. They picked it up in the second and led by six at the break. The Cardinal began the second half on a 7-0 run before Ionescu and Satou Sabally, who finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds, seized control and paced the Ducks the rest of the way.
The hosts out-rebounded Stanford 35-26, and forced them into 18 turnovers, while committing only 7 of their own. Ruthy Hebard added 11 points for Oregon, while Minyon Moore scored 10. Kiana Williams had 15 points for Stanford, while Lacie Hull added 10.
If Ionescu respected the Cardinal, the feeling was mutual, as Hall of Fame coach Tara VanDerveer said she was the deciding factor in the Ducks’ win.
“They had Sabrina, we didn’t,” VanDerveer said. “Sabrina is a once-in-a-career player. She’s phenomenal. She’ll be the (WNBA) number one draft pick.”
Graves said their opponents played uncharacteristically.
“They didn’t play a typical Stanford game,” he said. “They’re one of the most disciplined teams in the country, and what we tried to do was break their rhythm. I thought we did a really good job of that. They typically don’t turn it over 18 or 19 times.”
The Ducks’ defense compensated for their perimeter shooting struggles. After a 1-9 start they finished 8-24 from three. Outside of Ionescu’s 5-12 shooting from deep, the team shot just 3-12.
The game was reminiscent of last February’s match up between the two teams in Palo Alto, when Oregon routed the Cardinal, 88-48. Stanford returned the favor in the Pac-12 Tournament Championship game, beating the favorite Ducks to take the title.
This season, which has seen more changes in the AP top 10 than ever before, both teams have taken turns at the No. 1 spot. Though Oregon’s win Thursday was technically an upset, both teams are laden with talent in a conference full of ranked squads.
In the Ducks’ two losses this year, they shot 20.8 percent from three, which is 15.2 percent lower than their season average. But against the Cardinal, Oregon proved they can dominate the offensive end without relying on the three-pointer.
“Early in the year, we were shooting too many three’s,” Graves said. “We’re being a lot more patient (now). We’re not just settling for a quick three. We’re getting a little bit more inside. If you look at how many times we’re getting to the free throw line over the last six, eight games, it is really trending up.”
The Ducks will stay in Eugene to play the Cal Bears Sunday, while Stanfords heads to Corvallis to play No. 8 Oregon State. VanDerveer said her team will be ready.
“We don’t have time to have a little pity party,” she said. “You’ve got to turn around and play Oregon State. And they’re a terrific team too.”