Ionescu leads No. 6 Oregon to 77-63 win over Arizona
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Sabrina Ionescu filled up the stat sheet again as sixth-ranked Oregon played through an off-game to advance in the Pac-12 Tournament.
Ionescu had 18 points, 13 assists and eight rebounds to lead sixth-ranked Oregon to a 77-63 win over Aari McDonald and Arizona in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament Friday.
“It might have been those first-game jitters,” Ionescu said of the Ducks’ uneven performance on offense. “We were super nervous. We’re excited to get out there and play.”
Oregon coach Kelly Graves felt his team was a step slow on both ends of the court.
Ionescu, a junior guard who is the NCAA career leader with 17 triple-doubles, put on a show for the many Ducks faithful who made the trip to Las Vegas.
Also in the crowd, sitting in the front row across from the Oregon bench, was Las Vegas Aces president and coach Bill Laimbeer, whose team has the No. 1 pick in the WNBA draft in April. Ionescu is eligible to turn pro this year, but said last month she has no idea what she will decide.
Ionescu, who tied the tournament record with her 13 assists and moved within one of the Pac-12 Tournament career mark, said she didn’t notice that the Aces’ boss was at the game.
“That didn’t cross my mind. I wasn’t looking around and see who was watching our game,” she said. “I knew we had to come out and get this win. I don’t think it was pretty. We stuck together and fought. All that other outside stuff, whoever’s watching, I’m not paying attention to that. I would have played the same way if (Barack) Obama was here.”
Ruthy Hebard led Oregon (28-3) with 21 points and 10 rebounds.
McDonald did everything she could to keep the eighth-seeded Wildcats (18-13) in the game. She had 34 points, tied for the fourth-best performance in tournament history. She hit shots from the outside and made twisting layups.
“She played great. She made some shots and I was like, ‘How the heck did she make that?'” Arizona coach Adia Barnes said. “She’s special. She’s one of the best guards in the country and continues to make noise.”
Oregon was up 60-53 heading into the final quarter when Ionescu threw a no-look pass on the baseline to Oti Gildon for a lay-in. The Wildcats got no closer the rest of the way.
“I’m really proud of our team’s heart and effort,” Barnes said. “We played 40 minutes as hard as we could. It wasn’t perfect, but we knew we had to play 40 minutes of perfect basketball to win this game.”
McDonald had 18 points in the first half, and her jumper with 3:32 left in the half had the Wildcats within 29-24 before the Ducks outscored them 11-4 the rest of the period.
Satou Sabally hit a 3-pointer just before the halftime buzzer to make it a 12-point game.
The Wildcats won just six games last season, and the plus-12 win improvement tied the best in school history. The 1985-86 team also improved by 12 games.
“Last year we won two games in the Pac-12. We came a long way in a year,” Barnes said.
CLIMBING THE CHARTS
McDonald moved into seventh place on the Pac-12 single-season scoring list. She has 774 points and moved past some former conference greats in Kate Starbird (Stanford) and Kelsey Plum (Washington). McDonald also passed Ionescu’s sophomore season mark of 748 points.
Arizona: Awaiting a postseason bid.
Oregon: Faces UCLA in the Pac-12 semifinals.