No. 4 Oregon closes strong, beats No. 14 Utah 87-65
EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — When Oregon lost the lead early in Friday’s game against Utah, Ducks coach Kelly Graves turned to his driving force through the first half of the Pac-12 season.
And it wasn’t long before Satou Sabally had Oregon back on track.
Sabally scored 13 of her 20 points in a four-minute span of the second half and No. 4 Oregon closed the game on a 27-6 run for an 87-65 victory over No. 14 Utah.
“Those were big-time moves and got them in a little bit of foul trouble, too,” Graves said of Sabally, “and it just started to roll from there.”
Ruthy Hebard and Maite Cazorla had 16 points apiece, Erin Boley added 14 and Sabrina Ionescu scored 11 as all five starters scored in double figures for the Ducks (20-1, 9-0 Pac-12), who won their 13th consecutive game and seventh in a row against the Utes.
Megan Huff had a career-high 38 points and 11 rebounds to lead Utah (18-2, 7-2), which had its six-game winning streak snapped. Dru Gylten had 11 points.
Huff scored 15 points in the third quarter as the Utes erased a 10-point halftime deficit and went ahead for the first time at 56-54 on a layup by Dre’Una Edwards.
But Sabally came to Oregon’s rescue with six straight points for a 60-56 lead after three quarters, and then scored seven more in an 11-0 run that put the Ducks up 71-59 in the fourth. The 6-foot-4 German sophomore hit a 3-pointer, dropped in two three-point plays and added four free throws.
“We tried to isolate (Sabally) against Huff, and she was able to get to the rim,” Graves said. “We got her the ball right in the middle of the floor and she played like a pro during that stretch.”
Sabally has been Oregon’s leading scorer in conference play, averaging 20.3 points through the first nine games.
“We have had some tough games, but we’ve handled them well,” Sabally said. “We’re more mature and we’re ready for the second half of the season.”
Ionescu capped the run with a 3-pointer to end a 1-for-8 shooting streak to go with her nine assists. She added another 3 and three free throws in the final quarter.
“Let’s face it, she had a rough night for three quarters,” Graves said, “but she clicked pretty well in the fourth. That helped when she hit a couple, like the whole team took a deep breath.”
After attempting just two free throws in the first three quarters, Oregon was 12 of 13 from the line in the fourth period. The Ducks scored 30 points off Utah’s 18 turnovers.
Oregon’s balanced scoring, led by Oti Gildon’s 10 points off the bench, and its 26-6 edge in points in the paint led to a 37-27 halftime lead for the Ducks. Hebard hit her first four shots for eight points, but sat out most of the second quarter with two fouls.
Huff made all five of her 3-pointers and had 17 points to keep the Utes close despite their shooting 9 of 29 (31.0 percent) in the first half. Oregon was 17 of 32 (52.1 percent).
“She’s an awesome player,” Sabally said. “She can shoot from the outside, she can post up, she gets rebounds, so her versatility makes her hard to guard.”
Huff made 6 of 9 from 3-point range after shooting just 27.3 percent in Utah’s first eight conference games. She was 13 of 25 overall and had six offensive rebounds.
However, the Utes went 3 of 10, and 1 of 7 from long range, with six turnovers as the Ducks pulled away in the fourth quarter. Utah was 9 of 17 beyond the arc through three periods.
“We just needed to defend,” Cazorla said. “They were making 3s.”
Utah falls two games off Oregon’s pace atop the Pac-12 standings with its first road loss and faces another tough test at Oregon State to start the second half of the conference’s unbalanced schedule. The Utes’ shot at a rematch with the Ducks would have to come at the Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas.
Oregon needed the impressive finish with its toughest stretch of the season coming in the next two weeks. The Ducks’ next road trip is against California and No. 8 Stanford, then they have a home-and-home showdown with No. 9 Oregon State.
Oregon’s victory and UConn’s second loss could push the Ducks back up to No. 3, where they spent the first five weeks of the season with their highest ranking ever.
STAT OF THE NIGHT
Cazorla and Ionescu, who rank eighth and ninth nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio, combined for 16 assists and five turnovers, right at their season averages.
HE SAID IT
“I really liked the way we showed poise in that fourth quarter,” Graves said. “Our kids decided at both ends of the floor we were going to knock these guys out, starting with good defense, and it continued at the offensive end.”
Utah: At No. 9 Oregon State on Sunday.
Oregon: Hosts Colorado on Sunday.