DURHAM, N.C. (AP) When it comes to NCAA Tournament experience, all of the Oregon Ducks are like freshmen – because they’d never been here until now.
Fortunately for the Ducks, their actual freshmen are playing far beyond their ages.
Freshman Ruthy Hebard had 20 points and 15 rebounds, and Oregon earned its first Sweet 16 berth by upsetting Duke 74-65 on Monday night in the second round of the tournament.
”It’s funny, we never really put a goal on how far we can go, just because we didn’t know what we had,” Oregon coach Kelly Graves said. ”We’ve kind of attacked the entire season as a work in progress. … With a young team, you kind of have to do that.
”House money, that’s a good way to put it,” he added. ”We’re playing with house money.”
Maite Cazorla added 17 points and Lexi Bando finished with 14 points to help Oregon (22-13) become the first No. 10 seed in a decade to reach the round of 16.
The Ducks, in their first tournament since 2005, had never advanced past the second round in their 12 previous appearances. Now they’re on to Bridgeport, Connecticut, to take on third-seeded Maryland (32-2) in a regional semifinal.
”I think what we’re all going to take is just, we’ve got to play our hardest,” Hebard said. ”No one’s guaranteed a spot. Seeds don’t mean anything … and hopefully, we’ll keep winning.”
Lexie Brown scored 25 points for the second-seeded Blue Devils (28-6), who have been upset at home in the tournament’s second round twice since 2014. They played without guard Kyra Lambert, who tore her left anterior cruciate ligament in the first round against Hampton.
”I thought Lexie played extremely hard, and did many, many things out there that needed to be done, and at times needed to be done by two people, not just one,” coach Joanne P. McCallie said.
Oregon was in control all night – never trailing after the first 3 minutes, methodically stretching its lead to 15 on back-to-back 3s by Bando and Cazorla early in the fourth quarter and holding off Duke’s last-gasp push to get back in the game.
Brown pulled Duke to 68-63 with three free throws with 26.7 seconds left before freshman Sabrina Ionescu iced it by hitting six free throws in the final 24.5 seconds. Ionescu finished with 13 points.
Oregon: The Ducks’ group of freshmen – Mallory McGwire, Heabrd and Ionescu, the Pac-12 freshman of the year – were unfazed by the cross-country trip and their NCAA Tournament debut. Oregon, the only team in the field that starts three freshmen, hit nine 3-pointers and shot nearly 45 percent against a Duke defense that allows its opponents to shoot just 33 percent.
Graves said his game plan was to spread out the Duke matchup zone that was unlike anything his team had seen this season. ”We didn’t have our best shooting night, and we were still able to put up 70-some odd points,” he said.
Duke: The Blue Devils at times appeared rudderless in their first – and now, only – game without Lambert. It seemed like some key players tried to overcompensate, with Rebecca Greenwell finishing with six points while missing all six of her 3-pointers and Leaonna Odom had four points. Greenwell and Odom combined for 49 points in the Hampton victory. McCallie says her team generally rushed itself early while falling behind: ”The offense has a certain cadence to it, a certain pace, and we did not have that in the first half,” she said.
Oregon became the first No. 10 seed to beat a No. 2 seed since Florida State upset Stanford 68-61 in the second round of the 2007 tournament.
Talk about a rough couple of days in Durham. Duke’s men’s and women’s teams both were No. 2 seeds in their respective NCAA tournaments – and both were bounced in less than 24 hours. The Duke men were beaten by seventh-seeded South Carolina in the second round on Sunday night in Greenville, South Carolina.
DUKE AT HOME
The Blue Devils had been almost unbeatable in NCAA Tournament games at Cameron Indoor Stadium, winning 19 consecutive postseason games there from 1998-2014. Duke has now lost second-round home games in two of its last three appearances, previously falling to DePaul in 2014 – coincidentally, by the same 74-65 final score.
Oregon: Advances to face third-seeded Maryland on Saturday in the Bridgeport Regional semifinals.
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