EUGENE, Ore. — Pushed to the brink after No. 10 UCLA rallied back from a 19-point deficit, the No. 8 Oregon women's basketball team responded to force overtime, then dominated the extra five minutes to win 101-94 on Monday in front of a raucous crowd of 7,098 in Matthew Knight Arena.
The Ducks (25-4, 14-2) came into the night a game up on the Bruins and a half-game up on Stanford in the Pac-12, and now take a lead in the conference race into the final weekend of the regular season, coming up in Arizona. "This was a really sweet victory," UO coach Kelly Graves said. "Arguably the biggest game in Oregon women's basketball history — a national TV audience (on ESPN2), a lot to play for in terms of NCAA seeding, two elite teams. I'm just going to enjoy this tonight."
How It Happened: Needing a win to catch up with Oregon in the Pac-12 chase, UCLA (21-6, 12-4) responded to a 68-49 deficit early in the second half by grabbing momentum and coming all the way back to go up 90-87 on a three-pointer by Japreece Dean with 2:18 to go. But the Ducks scored the final three points of regulation on three free throws by sophomore Sabrina Ionescu, and she was the best player on the court in overtime.
Ionescu opened the extra five minutes with a steal, then made a midrange jumper for a 92-90 lead. She drew an offensive foul on UCLA's next possession, and scored again to cap a possession that featured two offensive rebounds by Mallory McGwire. UCLA's two talented seniors, Monique Billings and Jordin Canada, each scored to forge a 94-94 tie. But Satou Sabally capped a 25-point night with a go-ahead fallaway jumper, and Ionescu hit a jumper from the free-throw line for a decisive 98-94 lead. "We knew they were going to come out and punch us," Ionescu said. "We had to take it, and punch back."
There was little indication of the drama to come after Oregon opened the game on a blistering pace. Maite Cazorla made three-pointers on the Ducks' first two possession, and Sabally hit from deep on the next trip for a 9-2 lead. Another Sabally three gave Oregon its first double-digit lead at 21-11, and the lead remained 10 at the end of the first quarter, 31-21.
The second quarter featured more offense by both teams, and UCLA ended the first half shooting 54.8 percent (17-of-31), yet trailed 57-41 because Oregon had shot 71.4 percent (20-of-28). Sabally and Cazorla combined for 31 points on 8-of-9 three-point shooting in the first half, which also featured the first missed field-goal attempt by Ruthy Hebard in nearly two weeks, ending her NCAA-record streak of makes at 33. "It's always fun to make your shots," Hebard said. "I'm really happy I could make that record, and I'm ready to start a new one."
Oregon's first-half heroes carried some momentum into the second half. Cazorla hit a three to put the Ducks up 60-46, and after UCLA answered with a three, the UO women put together an 8-0 run that included two Sabally three-pointers bookending a basket by Cazorla. That put Oregon up 68-49 — and set the stage for the Bruins' comeback. Billings had 15 points and Canada had 14 as UCLA rallied all the way back to lead late in regulation, before Ionescu took over down the stretch.
"That's an amazing and talented team," Graves said. "Especially Jordin, she just decided, 'There's no way we're going to let this happen.' She just took it upon herself to single-handedly wreck our defense, and the others got involved. … (But) Sabrina kind of put us on her back that last five minutes. That's a heck of a win. I"m really proud of our team."
Who Stood Out: Ionescu overcame 6-of-16 shooting to finished with 23 points and an incredible 12 assists against zero turnovers, despite intense pressure from Canada and the UCLA guards. Sabally led the Ducks with a season-high 25 points, making her first seven three-point attempts of the game and also the overtime basket that put Oregon ahead for good. Cazorla added 24 points with seven assists, and returned from two brief absences while trainers attended to injuries by scoring the Ducks' final two points of the night from the free-throw line. Hebard had a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds, and McGwire made all three of her field-goal attempts while grabbing four rebounds — none bigger than the two on one possession at Oregon's end in overtime.
What It Means: With two games left in the regular season, Oregon has a one-game lead on Stanford and is up two games on UCLA and Oregon State for the Pac-12 title. The Ducks last took home a conference crown in the 1999-2000 season.
Up Next: The Ducks open the final weekend of the regular season at Arizona State on Friday (5 p.m., Pac-12 Network).
Courtesy: goducks.com UO Athletics