Ionescu, No. 6 Oregon pull away from ASU, win Pac-12 title
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — No. 6 Oregon broke out Pac-12 championship T-shirts and hats after pulling away from No. 21 Arizona State to claim its second straight league title.
The fit was as tight as the game.
Sabrina Ionescu scored 12 of her 19 points in the fourth quarter, Satou Sabally added 18 points and the Ducks overcame a five-point deficit in the final eight minutes for a 66-59 victory on Sunday.
“Our championship mettle was tested today, no question about it,” Oregon coach Kelly Graves said. “We lost momentum … had no momentum. We dug a little deeper and got it done.”
Maite Cazorla had 15 points and three 3-pointers and Ruthy Hebard had 11 rebounds for the Ducks (26-3, 16-2 Pac-12), who finished the game on a 20-7 run.
Kianna Ibis scored 18 of her game-high 23 points in the second half and Robbi Ryan had 12 points for the Sun Devils (19-9, 10-7 Pac-12), who will be the No. 5 seed in the Pac-12 tournament.
Ionescu and Sabally played critical roles in the comeback. They combined for nine points in an 11-0 run to give the Ducks a 58-52 lead with six minutes remaining, and Arizona State never led after that.
Sabally hit a layup with 1:49 remaining for a 62-57 lead, a play on which she originally was called for a charging foul. The call was reversed after officials looked at the replay and rules that Charnea Johnson-Chapman had foot in the restricted area under the basket. Officials are permitted to review a call in the last two minutes of a game.
“That totally changed the game,” Arizona State coach Charli Turner Thorne said.
“I’ve been in a lot of those meetings with referees that haven’t gone our way, and it sure nice to have one go our way on that,” Graves said.
Johnson-Chapman hit a jumper to make it 62-59 before Ionescu, a 5-foot-11 junior, rebounded her own miss and hit a 15-footer with 29.1 seconds left to keep the lead at five. Ionescu hit two free throws to finish the scoring.
“That’s why she’s the player of the year,” Graves said. “She does that kind of stuff.”
Ionescu, who has an NCAA-record 17 career triple-doubles, had six rebounds and four assists. She was 7 of 22 from the field and 0 of 5 from 3-point range while being guarded primarily by Ryan.
“We fought adversity throughout the game, and that’s what helped us win ultimately,” Ionescu siad. “We just had to pick it up and get stops defensively and get in rhythm offensively and stay together.”
Oregon, which leads Division I in points per game at 80.0, shot 41.7 percent from the field and was held below 72 points for the third time this season. The previous two times, the Ducks lost to Oregon State and UCLA.
“This was hard-fought,” Graves said. “Our kids had some adversity the last couple of weeks and we fought through it.”
Ibis scored nine of Arizona State’s final 11 points in the third quarter, when the Sun Devils finished on a 7-0 run to take a 50-46 lead, and Iris Mbulito scored early in the fourth quarter for a 52-47 edge before Oregon went on its run.
PAC-12 TOURNEY PAIRINGS SET
The four first-round games in the Pac-12 tournament on Thursday are set: No. 5 seed Arizona State will play Colorado, No. 6 seed Utah will play Washington, No. 7 seed California will play Washington State and No. 8 seed Arizona will play USC. Oregon, Stanford, Oregon State and UCLA have first-round byes.
As part of a senior day ceremony, Arizona State played the French national anthem to honor senior Sophia Elenga of Nogent Sur Oise, France. Sun Devils players also handed flowers to the two Oregon seniors, Maite Cazorla and Oti Gildon.
The Sun Devils enter the Pac-12 tournament in firm possession of an NCAA Tournament berth after regular-season victories over No. 21 Oregon State (twice), then-No. 24 California and close losses to No. 1 Baylor and No. 3 Louisville early in the season.
Oregon secured the No. 1 seed in the Pac-12 tournament after beating Arizona on Friday by virtue of its tiebreaker advantage over Stanford. Graves has won 12 league championships, including 10 straight at Gonzaga from 2005-14.
Oregon: Opens Pac-12 tournament play Friday against the winner of Thursday’s Arizona-USC first-round game.
Arizona State: Meets No. 12 seed Colorado in the first round of the Pac-12 tournament on Thursday. ASU swept the two-game season series.