SEATTLE — The Oregon women's basketball team opened Pac-12 Tournament play with an emphatic statement, dominating start to finish in an 84-47 quarterfinal victory over Colorado on Friday afternoon.
The No. 6 Ducks (28-4) made a tournament-record 13 three-pointers, held Colorado to 31 percent shooting and put the game away with a 22-0 run that put Oregon up 71-20 midway through the third quarter. "This team is maturing right before our eyes," said UO coach Kelly Graves, whose team will play in a semifinal Saturday against UCLA or California. "One of our weaknesses has been to build a lead and just kind of play around — not go for the jugular, so to speak. This game, the third quarter we came out and played some of our best basketball of the season.
How It Happened: Oregon led start to finish, putting together a performance befitting the tournament's top seed. The UO women began the game on an 8-0 run, which included Lexi Bando's first of six three-pointers and another by Maite Cazorla. Satou Sabally then hit her first two three-pointers of the afternoon, on her way to five for the day and a game-high 21 points. "Our coaches told us enough that we had to be ready," Sabally said. "That's what it was, we were just ready to play, and I was dialed in."
But those two Sabally threes were interspersed between three three-pointers in three possessions by Colorado. That prompted a timeout from Graves, who exhorted his team to close out quicker on the perimeter. The Buffs had just four more field goals the rest of the half, none from three-point range. "If we can lock in defensively like that, it can sustain us on those nights we don't shoot it well," Graves said. "There are gonna be nights we don't make those shots. But today we did.
Trailing 24-12 after one quarter, Colorado managed to hang around a little longer, scoring midway through the second quarter to stay within 29-16. From there, Oregon finished the period with a 16-2 run for a 45-18 halftime lead, and then scored 22 straight in the third quarter to go up by 51, at 71-20.
The Ducks opened the third quarter by shooting 10-of-10 from the field, including two threes apiece for Bando and Sabally. The UO defense, meanwhile, held Colorado to 1-of-10 shooting over the same stretch. "You never know what happens in March, so we didn't want to let them get back in the game," UO sophomore Sabrina Ionescu said. "And we wanted to continue to get better, every possession."
Ionescu's competitive drive was illustrated later in the game. With Oregon up 79-40 and Graves getting minutes for his bench in the fourth quarter, Ionescu hopped up and took a step toward the scorer's table, suggesting she wanted to re-enter. Graves was having none of that, but marveled postgame, "That's why she is who she is, and that's what makes her so special."
Who Stood Out: Sabally made 8-of-11 shots, including 5-of-7 three-pointers, on the way to 21 points in her collegiate postseason debut. Bando was 6-of-9 from three-point range and finished with 19 points. They grabbed the spotlight from Oregon's all-conference trio of Ionescu, Cazorla and Ruthy Hebard, but the game still ended with double-doubles for Ionescu (10 points, tournament-record 13 assists) and Hebard (11 points, 11 rebounds).
Among the most encouraging numbers was 27 — the minutes played by Ionescu, most on the team but well under her season average. Graves was able to go deep into his bench following that decisive third-quarter run, with six reserves playing between 11 and 17 minutes as the starters cheered them from the bench. "That quarter-and-a-half they were able to get rested could be big, potentially Sunday (if the Ducks make the final) but for sure tomorrow," Graves said.
Notable: Oregon's biggest Pac-12 Tournament win prior to today's 37-point victory vs. Colorado was a 21-point win over Washington State, 66-45, in 2008. … Oregon shot 55.9 percent against the Buffs. UO's previous best field-goal percentage in a Pac-12 Tournament game was 54.0 percent (27-of-50) against WSU in 2015. … The Ducks set a record for assists in a Pac-12 Tournament game with 22. The previous mark was 19 vs. UCLA in 2003. … Bando broke her own UO Pac-12 Tournament record with six three-pointers against Colorado. Bando previously set the mark with five against UW last year. … Ionescu crushed the UO Pac-12 Tournament assists record with 13. The previous record was seven, last set by Lexi Peterson against WSU in 2015. Ionescu's 13 assists tied the Pac-12 Tournament record, as Stanford's Marta Sniezek had 13 in a 2016 game. … Ionescu posted her team-best 13th double-double of the year, and Hebard had her 10th.
What It Means: The Ducks have advanced to the Pac-12 Tournament final for the fourth time overall and the second consecutive year, and now will look to reach the final for the first time. They avoided joining the 2015 Oregon State team that remains the only No. 1 seed to lose its opening game.
Up Next: The Ducks will face either UCLA or California in the semifinals on Saturday (6 p.m., Pac-12 Networks).