SEATTLE (AP) Oregon’s comeback recipe for its first berth in the Pac-12 title game was simple: Hold the No. 9 team in the country scoreless for the final 5 1/2 minutes.
Sabrina Ionescu had 17 points and No. 6 Oregon scored the final 10 points to rally for a 65-62 victory over UCLA on Saturday night in the Pac-12 semifinals.
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”I thought down the stretch, especially in the last half of that fourth quarter, I just thought we were tremendous defensively,” said Oregon coach Kelly Graves. ”They got some second shots here and there late, we made the stops when we needed.”
UCLA opened a 62-55 lead on Kennedy Burke’s jumper with 5:28 remaining, but the Bruins failed to score again.
Lexi Bando hit a 3-pointer from the right corner to pull Oregon to 62-61 with 3:05 left. The Ducks turned it over on their next two possessions before Maite Cazorla scored on a drive to put Oregon up 63-62 with a minute to go.
After a UCLA turnover, Ionescu found Oti Gildon wide open under the basket for an easy layup and a 65-62 lead with 31 seconds left.
Jordin Canada missed on UCLA’s next possession, but the Bruins grabbed the offensive rebound. Canada was hounded on the final possession, with Japreece Dean finally missing a long 3-pointer from the left side with one second left.
”In the end, that last play was not as clean, but I thought it was the plays leading up to that that we needed to get a little more production,” UCLA coach Cori Close said.
Oregon (29-4) advanced to Sunday’s title game against No. 16 Stanford. The Cardinal (22-9) beat the Ducks 78-65 in Eugene, Oregon, on Feb. 4.
Canada had 19 points, and Billings 18 for the Bruins (24-7), who had lost twice to Oregon in conference play.
Ruthy Hebard added 15 points and 13 rebounds, and Cazorla had 14 points for the Ducks.
”We didn’t hit shots,” Close said. We were 0 for 7 on our last seven trips down the floor, and we gave up some – we said couldn’t give up lay-ups or threes down the stretch. We could live with mid-range, contested jump shots, but we had to take away straight line drives and threes. But, we gave up a couple of those.”
Oregon closed the first half with a 15-4 run and then scored the first five points after the break, taking a 37-34 lead on a 3-pointer by Cazorla. The Ducks suffered through a 1-for-8 shooting stretch that allowed UCLA to regain the lead.
Billings scored six consecutive points to put the Bruins up 51-45, Ionescu hit a 3-pointer to pull Oregon within 51-48 entering the final period.
UCLA led 19-14 after one quarter and extended it to 32-19 on a jumper by Michaela Onyenwere with 4:22 left in the half.
But, the Bruins were limited to just a pair of free throws the rest of the way. Ionescu’s 3-pointer from the top right capped an 8-0 run that trimmed the lead to 32-27.
Bando hit from the top of the key with 3 seconds left to pull the Ducks within 34-32 at the break.
”I thought maybe that 13-2 run late in the second quarter, I thought was the key to the game in a lot of ways, just because it gave us a little bit of momentum going in,” Graves said. ”I thought the first half we were as poor offensively as we’ve been. But we at least got a little bit of life.”
Oregon was 9 of 19 beyond the arc, while UCLA was 4 of 17. Ionescu had four, Bando three and Cazorla two.
Oregon’s Satou Sabally, the Pac-12 freshman of the year who had 21 points in the Ducks 84-47 quarterfinal victory over Colorado, left with an undetermined injury with 6:05 remaining. She walked off under her own power, but did not return. Graves said he did not know Sabally’s status. ”Don’t know. She’s not feeling so good, but hopefully it’s going to be OK. If she’s not, we’ll just make sure that somebody has to step up and take her spot.” Sabally had just two points on 1-for-8 shooting against UCLA in 15 minutes.
Oregon: Pac-12 title game against Stanford on Sunday.