Ionescu sets new career-high as Ducks claim first Pac-12 Tournament title

From left: Mallory McGwire, Ruthy Hebard, Sabrina Ionescu and Justine Hall are fired up near the end of the Pac-12 Tournament Championship game. Photo courtesy of Pac-12 Network.
From left: Mallory McGwire, Ruthy Hebard, Sabrina Ionescu and Justine Hall are fired up near the end of the Pac-12 Tournament Championship game. Photo courtesy of Pac-12 Network.

Seattle – Oregon had already made program history by earning a spot in Sunday’s Pac-12 Tournament title game.

But the Ducks — and Sabrina Ionescu — had more in store. Much more.

The Pac-12 Player of the Year had a career-high and tournament title game record 36 points, and earned MVP honors as the Ducks won their first-ever championship in a 77-57 victory over Stanford.

As Ionescu described it, the Ducks had “unfinished business,” after suffering a loss — their last one — to the Cardinal a month ago Sunday.

“That loss stung us badly,” she said. “ … I think it taught us a lot down the road, and this game showed it. I think we came out, we adjusted well, and we came out with a lot of intensity, and we did that for all 40 minutes of the game.”

While Ionescu provided the bulk of the scoring punch for the Ducks, Satou Sabally, Ruthy Hebard, and Maite Cazorla also finished in double-figures for Oregon with 12, 11, and 10 points, while Alanna Smith led Stanford with 17.

Stanford jumped out to an early 13-6 lead — starting 6-for-7 from the field — but went more than eight minutes without a field goal as the Ducks took a 31-24 advantage into the break.

“We got off to kind of a tough start, but once we got our legs underneath us, I thought defensively we were on point,” said Oregon head coach Kelly Graves.

The teams traded baskets for much of the third, as the gap fluctuated between eight and 13, before the Ducks pulled away in the final minutes to put the game on ice.

Graves said he noticed something different about Ionescu in the lead-up to Sunday.

“She had a different look about her, and I didn’t know what that was going to translate into,” he said, “but now I know the look.”

Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer called her “unguardable.”

“Sabrina had a fantastic game,” she said.

Meanwhile, VanDerveer said her team was outplayed in every facet of the game. Stanford was outrebounded 30-24, and turned the ball over 16 times, which turned into 24 Oregon points.

“We lost to a better team today,” she said. “They are a very skilled offensive team, and we as coaches as players have to just really get back to the drawing board and be dedicated to work harder to improve our team and do the things that will help us be successful.”

Oregon also claims the Pac-12’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament with the win, while Stanford will wait to see if it earns a host seed.

“I feel like our team has been very resilient, very determined,” VanDerveer said. “We’ve worked very hard.”

The Ducks get the chance to enjoy the title of tournament champions.

“We’re going to let this one sink in a little,” Ionescu said. “It’s awesome we got to this game, but we definitely wanted to win it. I knew that as a team. We weren’t going to be complacent just getting to the championship game. I knew we wanted to win this.”


All-Tournament Team: Lexi Bando (Oregon), Monique Billings (UCLA), Jordan Canada (UCLA), Ruthy Hebard (Oregon), Kiana Williams (Stanford)

Oregon became the third program to win the conference championship and tournament championship in the same year.

Ionescu posted tournament-highs in points (63) and assists (22)

Oregon is now 26-1 when leading at the half.

The 20-point margin marked Stanford’s worst loss against a conference opponent this season.

Sabally played 26 minutes after leaving Saturday’s semifinal with a midsection injury. “She was not feeling good today,” Graves said.

Oregon’s 33 3-pointers over three games set a tournament record.

Attendance: 5,387 (second-most for a tournament final)