Ionescu leads No. 3 Oregon past No. 13 Arizona 88-70
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Asked how she felt about breaking the Pac 12 Tournament’s all-time scoring record, Sabrina Ionescu smiled, nodded and laughingly replied: “What record did I break?”
Ionescu followed up saying she’s concerned with one thing right now: “Cutting down nets.”
She moved one win away from accomplishing that in the conference by scoring 31 points and grabbing nine rebounds to lead No. 3 Oregon to an 88-70 victory over No. 13 Arizona on Saturday in the Pac-12 Tournament semifinals.
The Ducks (30-2) return to the title game for the third straight season and are looking for their second championship in that span.
“Really just trying to provide anything I can in order for to us win,” Ionescu said. “Had some open looks tonight, missed a few, but made enough for us to win.”
And then some.
Ionescu, who has a record 230 career points in Pac 12 Tournament play, finished 11 of 16 from the floor, including 6 of 9 from 3-point range.
The Ducks shot a blistering 53.2% (33 of 62) from the floor, including 15 of 31 (48.4%) from 3-point range. Oregon’s 88 points are the most scored in this year’s event and tied for ninth all-time.
Both teams combined for 25 from beyond the arc, setting a new Pac-12 Tournament record for 3-pointers made, breaking last year’s mark of 21, set by Washington and Oregon State.
Erin Boley had 18 points for Oregon, while Ruthy Hebard added 14.
“This is a good basketball team offensively, we’re an elite team, one of the best of all time, quite frankly,” Oregon coach Kelly Graves said. “So when we get it rolling and get to that tempo and find shooters and knocking them down, we become really difficult.”
Aari McDonald led Arizona (24-7) with a tournament-high 34 points, which is fourth highest all time in Pac 12 Tournament history. McDonald has scored in double-figures in 66 consecutive games, the longest active streak in the nation. Cate Reese chipped in with 13.
“Today we played a really good team,” Arizona coach Adia Barnes said. “Oregon is one of the best teams in the country with so many offensive weapons and just really hard to match up with. They’re a really good team with the potential to win a championship.”
The game appeared to be headed for a shootout from the opening tip, as the teams traded runs while burying seven 3-pointers in the first quarter alone. Boley, who scored just nine points in the Thursday’s quarterfinal win over Utah, hit her first four shots from the field and had 10 points during Oregon’s game-opening 16-6 run.
Arizona answered quickly with four consecutive 3-pointers – including two from reserve Helena Pueyo – as the Wildcats used a 14-5 run to pull within a point of Oregon, at 21-20.
Ionescu found her touch in the second quarter and hit four of Oregon’s first six field goals, part of a 12-0 run that led to the Ducks taking a 42-26 lead late in the first half. Arizona outscored Oregon 7-1 down the stretch, including a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from McDonald to get the deficit down to 10, sending the Ducks into the locker room leading 43-33.
Oregon outscored Arizona 20-13 in the second quarter and proved to be the biggest difference in the game.
The teams combined to shoot 12 of 25 (48.0%) from 3-point range in the first half, part of a 30-for-64 (46.8%) shooting barrage by both.
Graves said the game had a Sweet Sixteen or Elite Eight feel to it, and that he is always confident knowing he has the most efficient offense in the nation. He also said his Ducks cannot continue to give up as many points to the opposition if they want to cut down nets next month in New Orleans.
“We can’t give up 70 points and expect to play too long,” Graves said. “We have to do a little bit better job there.”
Arizona: Wildcats coach Adia Barnes said Sam Thomas is “the most underrated defender,” and the Las Vegas-product showed why in front of her hometown fans by playing stiff defense on Satou Sabally, who came in averaging 16.9 points and 7.1 rebounds. Thomas limited Sabally to 9 points on 2 of 9 shooting and just 3 rebounds.
Oregon: The Ducks outrebounded the Wildcats on the offensive glass (14-7), outscoring them with second-chance opportunities (16-5) and bench points (14-6).
In addition to the two-team mark, Oregon set the single-game Pac 12 Tournament record with it 15 3-pointers. Oregon has made 27 3-pointers in its first two games of the event. The Ducks scored 31.7% of their points from beyond the arc; after two games in the tournament, that number is 48.5%.
SHE SAID YES
Immediately following the game, McDonald’s disappointment from losing took a backseat to tears of joy after her boyfriend, Devon Brewer, proposed to her with help from fans sitting behind him, each holding placards that read: “A-A-R-I-O-N–W-I-L-L–Y-O-U–M-A-R-R-Y–M-E.”
Arizona: Awaits its NCAA Tournament bid.
Oregon: Will face Stanford in Sunday’s Pac 12 championship.