Ionescu’s triple-double leads No. 3 Ducks over CU, 101-53
BOULDER, Colo. (AP) — Sabrina Ionescu has played with a heavy heart after her friend and mentor Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash on Sunday, and their shared passion for basketball has helped her through the early days of her grief.
“Always getting your mind off it and being able to play the game you love helps,” Ionescu said Saturday.
She leaned on basketball again Saturday, putting up 24 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds to lead the No. 3 Ducks over the Colorado Buffaloes 101-53.
Oregon (19-2, 9-1 Pac-12) showed no signs of overlooking the Buffaloes ahead of its top-five showdown at Connecticut on Monday night. The Ducks haven’t faced the Huskies since the 2017 NCAA Tournament, a 38-point win for UConn, and looked sharp in their tuneup.
It will be the third top-10 matchup in 11 days for Oregon, which has helped Ionescu.
“With games going on and a big game against UConn, that’s really what I’m focusing on,” she said.
Ionescu has been grieving the loss of Bryant, who died along with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven other passengers in the crash in Calabasas, Calif., on Sunday. Ionescu had not talked publicly since the tragedy but did post a message to Bryant on Instagram on Saturday morning, thanking him for his friendship and for mentoring her through basketball and life.
Asked if posting the tribute to Bryant helped with the healing process the Oregon senior said, “I don’t really know. I think I’ll probably understand it later on.”
Her team has been a support system as she works through her grief.
“I think she is still in the mourning process and we’re giving her space,” Ducks coach Kelly Graves said. “At some point she will work herself out of it. I know that the court is her sanctuary and when she gets out here, she lets that go.”
Saturday was her 23rd career triple-double and fifth of the season in just 27 minutes. With the Ducks leading by 41 after three quarters Ionescu sat out the final 10 minutes.
She was working on a triple-double in the first half with 17 points, six rebounds and six assists. She had just nine rebounds entering the last minute of the third quarter and grabbed her 10th with 31 seconds left in the period.
Satou Sabally added 17 points, Minyon Moore had 15 and Ruthy Hebard added 10.
Emma Clarke scored 18 and Mya Hollingshed added 11 for Colorado (14-7, 3-7).
The Buffaloes hit a 3-pointer 16 seconds into the game to take the lead but the Ducks scored 21 of the next 23 points to take the drama out of it early. Oregon led 31-11 after the first quarter and 52-22 at halftime and was never threatened after the opening minutes.
“I feel like every game could be a trap game because everybody in the Pac-12 is so dynamic,” Moore said.
The Ducks shot 62.5 percent in the first half and held Colorado to 25-percent shooting in the first 20 minutes.
Oregon: The Ducks have rolled over opponents this season, winning by double digits in 17 of their 19 wins. Only twice in 10 Pac-12 games has Oregon failed to win by 10 or more points.
Colorado: The Buffaloes were lost both games to the Ducks by an average of 53 points and have found the conference schedule much tougher than the preseason. Colorado went unbeaten in 11 games prior to starting the Pac-12 slate but has dropped seven of its last nine.
30 FOR 30
The Buffaloes have lost 30 in a row to ranked opponents, with their last win against a top-25 team coming against No. 15 Kentucky on Nov. 19, 2016, in head coach JR Payne’s first season.
Saturday was no different for a young team going through growing pains.
“There are some really good things we can take from this game, even though the score is awful,” Payne said.
Oregon: At No. 4 UConn on Monday night.
Colorado: At Washington State on Friday night.