EUGENE, Ore. — Oregon sophomore Sabrina Ionescu recorded her NCAA-record 10th career triple-double and the No. 2 seed Ducks led wire-to-wire Friday, beating 15th-seeded Seattle U 88-45 in a first-round NCAA Tournament game played before 7,040 fans in Matthew Knight Arena.
Ionescu scored a game-high 19 points, dished out 11 assists and grabbed her 10th rebound shortly after the start of the fourth quarter, to record the 15th triple-double in NCAA Tournament history. The Ducks won their first-round game for the second year in a row, and advanced to face 10th-seeded Minnesota in a second-round game Sunday.
"I thought we played really, really well, right from the get-go," said UO coach Kelly Graves, who improved to 12-9 all-time in the tournament. "When I saw our team diving for loose balls early in the game, I could tell this wasn't just another game. They weren't going to just go through the motions. These guys wanted to compete."
How It Happened: Ionescu helped set that tone from the jump, scoring on a reverse layin for the game's first basket and feeding Maite Cazorla for a bucket that made it 4-0. It was 8-0 when freshman Satou Sabally dove to the floor after a loose ball, keeping it alive for Ionescu to get two second-chance points from the free-throw line and give Oregon the game's first 10 points.
The Ducks (31-4) opened the game in a zone defense that stifled Seattle U early on, as Oregon forced turnovers on four of the Redhawks' first five possessions. "Defensively, I think we were locked in from the beginning," Ionescu said. "We've been locked in since the Pac-12 Tournament. We've played some great defense, and tonight was no different.
Oregon led 25-6 after one quarter, and 48-16 at halftime. The Ducks came into the night averaging nine three-pointers per game, to rank No. 14 in the NCAA this season, but needed just one to build that first-half lead. They found their range after halftime, as Ionescu opened the third quarter with a corner three to cap a possessions on which all five Ducks touched the ball in succession.
The UO women ultimately led by as many as 46, and used the big margin to rely heavily on their bench. All 11 players in uniform had appeared by the end of the first half, and 10 saw at least 13 minutes of action in Friday's game. "It was nice to get a lot of people in the game, and we got some rest," Graves said. "It was a good night all the way around."
The game ended with Oregon dribbling out the clock, and players from both teams shaking hands and congratulating each other. Seattle was making its first ever tournament appearance, and coach Suzy Barcomb opened her postgame comments with praise for the job Oregon did as hosts for the first weekend of games, and for the Ducks' talent on the floor. "I truly believe they're a Final Four team," Barcomb said.
Who Stood Out: Four other Ducks scored in double figures, led by Oti Gildon, who continued her habit of rising up in the postseason by contributing 16 points with six rebounds. Ruthy Hebard added 12 points with nine rebounds, Lexi Bando made a trio of three-pointers for 11 points, and Cazorla added 10 points. Mallory McGwire and Sierra Campisano each contributed six points off the bench, and Aina Ayuso had a couple more ankle-breaking crossover moves in the wake of her viral highlight against Colorado in the Pac-12 Tournament.
Ionescu added to her own NCAA record for career triple-doubles, and now looks to become the second women with two in NCAA Tournament play, joining former UO assistant Nicole Powell. Her triple-double chase featured a couple light moments; when she was at nine rebounds late in the third quarter, she twice lost out to teammates for rebounds, leading to groans from the crowd.
Ionescu said she's generally unaware of her triple-double chases, but she acknowledged with a laugh that wasn't the case Friday. "Coach told me I needed to get one more so he could take me out of the game," Ionescu said. "But the crowd was great, and the student section was awesome. It was really inspiring."
What It Means: The Ducks improved to 10-13 all-time in NCAA Tournament play, and extended their winning streak this season to 11 games.
Up Next: The No. 2 Ducks host No. 10 seed Minnesota in Matthew Knight Arena on Sunday at 7:30 p.m.
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