Oregon Ducks

Mullens mulls a complex issue regarding coach Helfrich

Mullens mulls a complex issue regarding coach Helfrich

Message for those fretting over the status of Oregon football coach Mark Helfrich: Chill out!

Oregon athletic director Rob Mullens spent today working with the College Football Playoff selection committee in Texas while in the state of Oregon people who care about Ducks football were flipping out.  

Fans, boosters and media are demanding immediate gratification and answers regarding Helfrich’s job status coming off of a 4-8 season, the program’s first losing record since 2004.

The problem for the impatient is that Mullens isn’t on their timetable. He’s on his.

Mullens is scheduled to return to Eugene on Tuesday. He could meet with Helfrich as soon as then, or later in the week.

Clearly, despite numerous reports and speculation, Mullens has not made a decision regarding Helfrich’s status. If Mullens had already decided to fire Helfrich it would have made much more sense to do so on Sunday following UO’s 34-24 loss at Oregon State in the Civil War, and before the head coach and the rest of the coaching staff had headed out to recruit that same day.

Firing the staff while it is scattered around the country recruiting would be a horrible look for Mullens and Oregon.

It’s difficult to believe Mullens could be that cold to a staff that included coaches who have been at Oregon for up to 33 years.

Even if Mullens were leaning toward firing Helfrich and the staff, but had yet to make a decision, he could have ordered that the group not to head out to recruit.

This week is not paramount to the recruiting cycle. If the team were in the Pac-12 championship game this weekend, the staff wouldn’t be out recruiting. Holding them back for a few days would not have made a bit of difference in recruiting, whereas firing the staff while they are out recruiting could have serious impacts on the current class.

The only logical reason to allow the staff to continue as usual would be if Mullens were leaning toward keeping Helfrich and company.

However, not reassuring Helfrich on Sunday at least means that Mullens has his doubts.

What has to happened during that meeting is Helfrich must convince Mullens that he has a plan to fix the issues that led to such a down turn just two years after the team reached the national championship game.

It’s a very complex decision being made that shouldn’t be rushed.

Here is a look at issues in play for Mullens to consider:

  • $15 million price tag:  Firing Helfrich would mean paying him an $11.6 million buyout on his five-year contract signed after the 2014 season. A new coach worth hiring is going to cost at least $15 million over five years. So, UO would essentially be paying about $27 million for a head coach over the next five years. That doesn’t include buying out the assistant coaches for about $3.4 million, paying new assistants and potentially paying the buyout to the school employing Oregon’s future new head coach. The idea that NIKE founder Phil Knight, or other big time boosters, are willing to post so much cash to get rid of Helfrich after one bad season doesn’t seem plausible. We shall see.  
  • Who would Mullens hire to replace Helfrich? It appears that those who want Helfrich gone haven’t thought this part through very clearly. Names have been tossed around with little regard to practicality. The only candidate that might have gotten UO to open up the checkbook and make a move could have been Tom Herman. But he was on the market for only a few hours before Texas hired him away from Houston. Note that he didn’t even give UO a real sniff.  There are no other obvious choices out there that are slam-dunk upgrades over Helfrich, especially when factoring in the money involved. This staff has been to two national title games, won two Rose Bowls and a Fiesta Bowl. What head coach and his staff available could boast such a resume? Former LSU coach Les Miles could. Would he go to Oregon? Maybe. Would the Ducks want him? Maybe. Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin, sources say, is not a viable option. But sources say a Miles-to-Oregon occurrence is not very likely. Beyond him, who else makes sense? Western Michigan’s P.J. Fleck is a possibility and a hot commodity. But he has been a head coach for just four years and it’s been at Western Michigan of the MAC. There is no guarantee or proven track record to suggest that Fleck would be an obvious upgrade, or ever get Oregon into national title contention. It would be a roll of the dice with, again, a $15 million price tag just to sit at the table. It is possible that in the past few days a search firm has been fleshing out candidates to provide for Mullens as he makes his decision.  
  • Unchartered territory: Oregon hasn’t fired a head football coach in 40 years. It didn’t fire Rich Brooks after he went 3-8 in 1991 following two 8-4 seasons. UO didn’t fire Mike Bellotti after he went 5-6 in 2004 and didn’t win a bowl game from 2002 through 2006. To pull the trigger now after the program’s first losing season in 12 years and two years removed from a trip to the national championship game appears to be a stretch, and something that should give Mullens great pause.
  • What does Oregon want to become? Clearly some fans, boosters and media believe that UO should be a perennial national contender through all eternity since it just had a great six-year run of success.  However, that success was due to a great offense that has since been duplicated to death making it less unique to Oregon. That doesn’t mean UO can’t win big again. It simply means that in a deep Pac-12 loaded with other good coaches, the Ducks are going to have their share of ups and downs based on the level of experienced star talent in place during a given year, and how it matches up against the rest of the conference. It will all be cyclical whether anyone wants to admit that or not. Chasing a delusion by beginning a cycle of hiring and firing coaches if they don’t meet unrealistic expectations would send the program down a rabbit hole after something unattainable.  Does Mullens want to push the panic button after one bad year and essentially tell the next coach that he had better win the national title soon, and never have a bad season or he would be gone next? That’s the message firing Helfrich now would send to a new coach. The leash is short and we have unrealistic expectations.
  • Can Helfrich turn this around? Oregon played this season with a very young but talented team that was hit hard by injuries. There is ample reason to believe that things will turn around in a hurry, especially with freshman quarterback Justin Herbert appearing to be a budding superstar. If Mullens believes this staff, a group he has seen win at a national level, can right the ship then it makes no sense to jettison them. He should take a peak at how TCU has handled Gary Patterson, rumored to have been contacted by Oregon. Patterson took over TCU in 2001 and went from 6-6 to 10-2 and then 11-2 over his first three seasons. Then TCU went 5-6 in 2004. Patterson wasn’t fired. He responded with 10 wins or more in six of the next seven seasons before going 7-6 in 2012 and then 4-8 in 2013. Again, TCU didn’t’ fire him. Patterson rewarded the loyalty by going 12-1 and then 11-2. This year TCU went 6-5.  That’s three times Patterson has had a dip at TCU and three times he has rebounded. All three times TCU didn’t panic and fire him. Oregon should take note.
  • People matter: This isn’t simply about Helfrich. A new coach would likely want to bring in his own staff. How does Mullens easily pull the trigger on essentially also terminating Steve Greatwood, John Neal, Don Pellum, Gary Campbell, Tom Osborne and Jimmy Radcliffe, coaches who have been at UO from between 14 to 33 years? This staff as a whole has more than earned the chance to fix this mess. Most have done it before. Why can’t they do it again?
  • Will season tickets really be impacted by keeping Helfrich: One thing Mullens can’t do is allow the irrational feelings of some fans impact his decision. There aren’t many more irrational groups in our society than fans. Think about it: What compels anyone to allow the performance of people they do not know impact their emotions or trigger anger to the levels of venom and hate being hurled at an Oregon native like Helfrich who two years ago guided the Ducks to their greatest season ever, and recruited, developed and coached the greatest player in program history, Marcus Mariota?  Some fans are threatening to not renew season tickets. Yeah, right! After all of the winning they’ve witnessed at Autzen are they really going to jump off the bandwagon after one losing season if Helfrich returns? I’m calling B.S.  They will pout for a few weeks then get over the irrational pain they feel, realize that the team could be very good next year and then renew their tickets. If not, someone else will scoop them up.  
  • Does Helfrich have a solid plan? This should be an easy sell for Helfrich considering how young and banged up this team was, and that the roster holds a glut of elite-level talent that simply needs time to develop. Helfrich also must sell Mullens on how he is going to raise the level of discipline within the team. Things have become a bit too lackadaisical in some areas, sources say, leading to an erosion of discipline. That must change. Mullens might have some demands that include staff changes. If so, Helfrich must be willing to meet those demands.




In an ideal world this entire situation would be resolved by now. But the complexities that lead to such a decision even being made at this time are certainly going to impact the final decision and must be weighed carefully.


So, be patient. It will all be over soon.




This time, the defense did not travel. That's a wrap for the Ducks' 2017-2018 season

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This time, the defense did not travel. That's a wrap for the Ducks' 2017-2018 season

How Oregon lost: The 2017-2018 season is in the books. The defense did not travel on the road at No. 2 Marquette today. Golden Eagles senior guard Andrew Rowsey could not miss. The 1.75 foot extension of the NIT three-point line proved no different for the fourth ranked NCAA three-point shooting team at .415% as Rowsey finished with 29 points hitting 6-of-11 from behind the arc. No. 3 Oregon ends its season with a 101-92 loss at Marquette in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.   

The tempo was set high from tipoff. Marquette controlled the tempo forcing 13 total Oregon turnovers and capitalizing with 30 points off those turnovers and 36 fast-break points.

Of the first 15 points for the Golden Eagles, 13 of which came off of fast-break opportunities. Marquette hit seven of its first 11 from three-point range and jumped out to a 30-11 lead at the end of the first quarter. The Ducks had no defensive response for Rowsey, who got off any three-point shot he wanted or forced Oregon to fall for his shot-fake and draw the foul for three free throws. 

Oregon quickly fell into a 20-point hole and Marquette kept its foot on the gas until the final buzzard. 

The offensive production was there today for Oregon, shooting 54% from the field, but defensively, the Ducks could not find an answer for the Golden Eagles’ fast-paced tempo and hot shooting.

What it means: Although the 2017-2018 season may not have been the finish that the players, staff, and fans had hoped for, the Ducks finished with a 23-win season including a 10-win conference record in the eight season under head coach Dana Altman.

The last time the Ducks were in the NIT tournament, the following year’s team went to the NCAA Sweet 16 in March Madness. With a top incoming recruiting class, the future still looks bright in Eugene. Only four seniors graduating, including two starters, and a young team that saw valuable minutes throughout the entire season will be interesting to follow next season and where they end up.

High-flying Ducks: The Oregon big men got it done on the inside for the Ducks. Lead by redshirt senior MiKyle McIntosh’s 25 points, shot 15-of-18 from the free throw line. Junior transfer Paul White finished with 19 points and four rebounds. Sophomore guard Payton Pritchard, who came out strong with seven quick points, had the rest of his offensive production come late finishing with 16 points. Freshman Victor Bailey Jr., had another nice game once again off the bench finishing with 11 points, most of which this time coming from inside the three-point line.

Foul play: White finished with four fouls and McIntosh, freshmen Kenny Wooten and Troy Brown finished with three fouls.

Another triple-double; Another ankle-breaker; another day at the office for No. 2 Oregon

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Another triple-double; Another ankle-breaker; another day at the office for No. 2 Oregon

How Oregon won: Another triple-double, another ankle-breaking crossover, just another win for the Oregon Ducks. But it all came at the right time. Since defeating Stanford to claim the Pac-12 tournament title for the first time in school history, the No. 2 Ducks picked up right where they left off in round one of the NCAA March Madness tournament vs. No. 15 Seattle University with a commanding 88-45 win at Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene, Oregon.

“I thought we played really well right from the get go,” said Oregon coach Kelly Graves. “When I saw our team diving for loose balls, early in that game, I could tell that this wasn’t just another game that we were just going to go through the motions and win this thing. These guys really wanted to compete.” 

Seattle University coach Suzy Barcomb said of Oregon, “I truthfully do think they should be a Final Four team…”

Lead by her tenth career triple-double, sophomore guard Sabrina Ionescu shined once again in the spotlight. Ionescu finished with 19 points, 11 assists, and 10 rebounds, and she accomplished all of this in just 31 minutes. With one rebound to go to complete her triple-double, the crowd of Oregon fans began to subtly boo when other Oregon players got the rebound. All in good fun and in support of Ionescu, the NCAA record-holder for career triple-doubles. At last, she finally grabbed her final rebound, was immediately taken out of the game by Graves, and for the remaining nine minutes of the game, Ionescu was pumping up her teammates from the bench.

Coming off a deep tournament run last season, the Ducks were hungry for more coming out tonight and in front of their home crowd.

“Less nerves? No, I think I was nervous, I think our team was nervous,” said Ionescu. “Seeding doesn’t matter, I think we learned that last year. We came out and we were hungry for wins, and we wanted to play and we hung in their with 2-seed’s, 3-seed’s, 4-seed’s, so seeding didn’t matter. It just felt different because we were at home and we had the crowd on our side.”

It was just clicking on both ends of the floor tonight for Oregon. What started on the defensive end was finished on offensive with swift ball movement and establishing both an inside and outside game. Oregon got off to a hot start forcing four quick turnovers getting hands in the passing lanes and deflecting balls. The Ducks held Seattle scoreless for just over five minutes. 

What it means: The Ducks will play the No. 10 Minnesota Golden Gophers in round two of the Spokane Region tournament at 7:30 PM at Matthew Knight Arena. Minnesota comes in as the number three scoring offense in the country, so Oregon will have to bring it on the defensive front once again.

“They have quick guards and they move the ball well, they shoot the ball well,” said Ionescu. “It will be a tough team, but I think we are prepared, especially playing through the Pac-12 and our preseason games. I think it prepares us for March, so I’m excited to play another game.”

High-flying Ducks: Five Oregon players scored in double digits tonight. Lead by Ionescu's 19 points, junior Oti Gildon came up huge off the bench finishing with 16 points and six rebounds. Sophomore forward Ruthy Hebard was once again a force down low finishing with 12 points and one rebound shy of a double-double. Senior Lexi Bando, playing in her final collegiate tournament, finished with 11 points on 3-of-6 from behind the arc. Finally, junior guard Maite Cazorla finished with 10 points and zero turnovers.

Oregon scored 54 points in the paint, partly due to Hebard and Gildon making their presence known down low.

Foul play: Freshamn Satou Sabally finished with three fouls. 

Up next: No. 2 Oregon vs. No. 10 Minnesota at 7:30 PM at Matthew Knight Arena.

Oregon is Victor-(BaileyJr)-ious in round 1 of NIT

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Oregon is Victor-(BaileyJr)-ious in round 1 of NIT

How Oregon won: The Ducks picked up right where they left off in Las Vegas last weekend for the Pac-12 tournament: slow start, better middle, even better ending. In the first round of the National Invitation Tournament (NIT), the No. 3 Ducks hosted the No. 6 Rider Broncs at Matthew Knight Arena, in front of a mere 2,327 Oregon fans. The shooting struggles continued from the Pac-12 tournament into the first quarter, that is until Oregon freshman Victor Bailey Jr., checked in off the bench. Bailey hit seven three-pointers and co-lead Oregon to a first-round NIT victory 99-86 over Rider.

“I know the guys were disappointed, I was disappointed, at halftime,” said Oregon coach Dana Altman. “We were beat in every category. Second chance points, bad turnovers, easy baskets. You know our energy level was just really bad. No communication defensively. It was not a good have and we were probably fortunate to only be down eight, as poorly as we played.”

Oregon shot just 33.3% on 5-of-15 from the field in the first quarter and trailed Rider 21-15. Add that to nine first-half turnovers (dribbling off foot, bad passes, stepping out of bounds) and the Ducks were the definition of “rocky start”.

Altman continued, “Second half, we didn’t get off to a real good start, but once we started clicking, and got a few shots down, the energy level went way up. VJ (Bailey Jr.) really likes to play when the ball is going in. He did a really nice job shooting the ball and giving us some energy…”

Bailey Jr., finished co-leading the Ducks with 23 points off the bench shooting 7-of-8 from behind the “new” NIT three-point line (extend an extra foot and eight inches).

What it means: The Ducks survived and advance to the next round of the NIT and awaits the winner of No. 2 Marquette vs. No. 7 Harvard.

Last weekend where the Ducks relied on senior leadership from MiKyle McIntosh and Elijah Brown during the Pac-12 tournament, tonight it was the underclassmen. Freshmen Bailey Jr., and Kenny Wooten got it done on both ends of the court. Shot-blocking phenom Wooten added three more blocks to his season stats tonight. Although Rider did outscore the Ducks in the paint 50-34, Wooten still managed to make his presence known. A number of those Rider points came in the first half with mis-communication in Oregon’s zone and getting the ball behind the big men down low.

Wooten recorded a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds.

High-flying Ducks: With Bailey Jr., feeling it from downtown, that cause the Rider defense to push out to guard the perimeter leaving driving lanes more open for sophomore guard Payton Pritchard and freshman guard Troy Brown. Pritchard also finished with 23 points and added eight assists. Brown recorded eight points and seven rebounds. Elijah Brown had a quiet 18 points hitting 3-of-6 from three-point range.

Foul play: Troy Brown and McIntosh each finished with four fouls. Junior Paul White finished with three fouls.

Up next: The Ducks await the winner of No. 2 Marquette vs. No. 7 Harvard tomorrow night. Home court advantage is based on seeding, so if Marquette wins, Oregon will travel to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. If Harvard wins, Oregon will host the next round of the NIT.

Big Dance hopes on the line for Oregon vs. USC in Pac-12 semifinal game

Big Dance hopes on the line for Oregon vs. USC in Pac-12 semifinal game

Pac-12 Semifinal: #6 Oregon (22-11, 10-8) vs. #2 USC (25-7, 12-6)

It’s been a dramatic journey for Oregon to reach the Pac-12 tournament semifinal game.

The Ducks trailed by as many as 11 points to Utah in the second half of the quarterfinal game, but a late rally and some last-minute heroics from MiKyle McIntosh and a game saving block from Kenny Wooten sealed the 68-66 victory over No.3 seed Utah

Oregon will face No. 2 seed USC at 8:30 p.m., Friday night. USC has topped Oregon in close victories in the schools’ two meetings so far this season.

On Jan. 18, the Trojans beat Oregon, 75-70, in Eugene and then earned a 72-70 victory over the Ducks at the Galen Center on Feb. 15.

USC’s Jordan McLaughlin has been a handful for Oregon this season. He had a near triple-double in the first meeting with 11 points, 9 rebounds and 7 assists. In the second game, he had a double-double with 11 points and 11 assists.

USC had a first game bye and then held Oregon State to 31 percent shooting in a 61-48 victory to reach the semifinal game. Chimezie Metu had 22 points and 11 rebounds and two blocks in the Trojans victory over the Beavers.

Oregon has played eight straight games that have been decided by single digits, including three that went to overtime.  

Will the comeback Ducks strike again? Oregon is in a position where they likely need to win the Pac-12 Tournament to get to the NCAA Tournament.

The Trojans have the resume of a bubble team, another win would be a significant boost to their tournament resume.

Cristobal begins reshaping Oregon football today with start of spring drills

Cristobal begins reshaping Oregon football today with start of spring drills

Today won't technically be the first time that the Oregon Ducks take the field under new coach Mario Cristobal when spring drills begin. But in many ways it will be. 

The actual first time Cristobal led the Oregon football team onto a field of any kind occurred in early December shortly after Willie Taggart departed for Florida State, leaving the Ducks in disarray. 

Cristobal did his best to right the ship in time for the Las Vegas Bowl just 10 days later but he simply didn't have enough time to fix the mess at hand. The players, who lobbied for Cristobal to replace Taggart, didn't successfully make the transition from "Do Something" to disappointment and then back to contentment under their new leader (save for defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt being bent out of shape he didn't replace Taggart) in time to avoid a 38-28 loss to Boise State in Sin City. 

There was simply too much disruption in play, and that included star running back Royce Freeman electing not to play in the bowl game in order to avoid a potential injury before departing to the NFL. 

So, let's give Cristobal, the staff (those who returned) and the players the benefit of that doubt that what we saw in Las Vegas was an aberration and that the new era under a man who won national titles as a player at Miami (1989 and 1991) and as an assistant coach at Alabama (2015) begins today with a clean slate.

What Cristobal inherited was a team that should win at least eight games in 2018 given the presence of junior quarterback Justin Herbert, the return of several key players on what was a greatly improved defense, and a weak schedule that included three non-conference powder puffs. 

Reaching 10 wins, or more, will require maintaining the momentum created by Taggart, keeping Herbert healthy (UO went 1-4 in his absence last year due to a broken collarbone) and flushing the offense's showing in Las Vegas while recapturing the magic that had the Ducks averaging about 50 points per game during the regular season when Herbert was in action. 

"I think last year there was a foundation laid between all of us that gave us a chance to start building upon that but there's a big difference between winning seven games and winning eight, nine, 10, 11," Cristobal said.

To reach those levels the Ducks (7-6 last season) must have success against Washington, Stanford and the Chip Kelly-led UCLA Bruins at home, while also finding a way to win potentially tough road games at Arizona and Utah. 

The problem is that there is much mystery to unravel before anyone can rightfully believe that Oregon is going to find those 10 wins and contend in the Pac-12 North. 

Cristobal hasn't been a head coach since being fired from the same position with Florida International in 2012 after going 27-47. The Ducks are on their third coach in 15 months (Mark Helfrich was fired in December of 2016). Backup quarterback remains a huge issue. Wide receiver is in flux. The defensive line lacks depth. Freeman is gone. 

Plus, Oregon's aura as a dominant force has waned. The conference is not longer chasing Oregon. The Ducks are the one doing the hunting. And there's reason to believe that the hierarchy of conference coaches are not shaking in their boots fearful of the Cristobal era sweeping through the conference and laying waste to opponents. 

None of this is to say that Cristobal won't find success. He very well could. He also very well could not. 

We won't know the results for months. But that process begins today. 

Notes: UO will practice five times in March before taking time off for finals and spring break before returning to the field on April 3 to prepare for the spring game on April 21 in Autzen Stadium...Oregon will hold a practice at Franklin High School in Portland on April 7.  The Ducks practiced at Jesuit High School last spring. 

Ionescu shines in Ducks' biggest moment

Ashley Young

Ionescu shines in Ducks' biggest moment

Big time players make big time plays in big time games. In one of the biggest games of her young career, Oregon sophomore guard Sabrina Ionescu had a little "twinkle in her eye", according to Oregon coach Kelly Graves, coming into tonight's Pac-12 tournament finals vs. the No. 2 Stanford Cardinal. Ionescu went off for a career high and Pac-12 championship record 36 points to lead the No. 1 Oregon Ducks past the Cardinal 77-57 in Seattle, WA.

This is the Ducks' first ever Pac-12 tournament championship in program history.

Graves said on Ionescu, "I tell you, when you have somebody like Sabrina, she shines the brightest in the biggest moments, and she sure did that tonight. It's a part of her competitive greatness."

What was the key to success? Rewind to the beginning of February, and the Ducks had just suffered their second conference loss to the Cardinal at home at Matthew Knight Arena. Tonight, it was a different story and some "unfinished business" to attend to. 

"I thought our energy was great, we were active, our feet and our hands were active," said Graves. "We didn't get out and trap much but I just thought we were on point and dialed in. We decided to play them outside-in to try to take away that three-point game the best we could, make them make baskets around the hoop and we did that."

Ionescu, the Pac-12 Player of the Year, finished with 36 points shooting 14-of-24 from the field, four rebounds, four assists, and four steals. The Pac-12 Freshman of the Year Satou Sabally recorded 12 points hitting 3-of-5 from three-point range. Sophomore forward Ruthy Hebard was one rebound shy of another double-double and finished with 11 points and nine rebounds. Junior guard Maite Cazorla finished with 10 points and six assists.



Survive & Advance. Ducks flying into Pac-12 title game

Ashley Young

Survive & Advance. Ducks flying into Pac-12 title game

How Oregon won: The Ducks and Bruins picked up right where they left off 12 nights ago in Eugene, OR. This game, including the build-up to tip off, was nothing short of edge-of-your-seat entertainment on both sides of the court. From start to finish, this was a back-and-forth gripping battle, in which both Oregon coach Kelly Graves and UCLA coach Cori Close quoted as "an Elite Eight level game" and "Final Four" caliber. But in the end, it was all Ducks. Closing out on a 10-0 run, holding the Bruins scoreless in the final five minutes, and senior Lexi Bando hitting a huge three-pointer was the formula for success. No. 1 tournament seed Oregon fought all the way to the finish and defeats the No. 4 UCLA Bruins 65-62 in the Pac-12 tournament semifinals in Seattle, WA. 

The Ducks will advance to the Pac-12 tournament finals for the first time in program history.

Graves said, "I don't typically get that emotional but that was a heck of a game. We didn't show many signs that we were going to win that thing until late. Didn't appear at times to be our day and these guys just gutted it out. I thought defensively, late in that game, man we ran I think four possessions of man-to-man against htem in our first two games combined and we went man-to-man most of the night tonight and I thought out kids did a really good job and held a high-scoring team down."

Two, momentum-swinging runs from the Ducks, proved to be the catalyst in this game. Late in the second quarter, the Ducks found themselves in a 13-point hole, down 32-19 with 4:22 remaining. It was three-pointers from Bando, sophomore Sabrina Ionescu, and junior Maite Cazorla that swung the momentum back on the Ducks' side heading into the locker room at halftime down just two points.

"Well anytime you play UCLA, you know they're going to make runs," said Graves. "That's the kind of team they are, they feed off turnovers, long rebounds, those kinds of things. We are fortunate that we made the last one. I thought our 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 lot of momentum going in. I thought the first half we were as poor offensively as we've been, but we atleast got a bit of life. Lexi hit one of those big three's... seems like everytime she hits one of those three's it almost counts four or five because it seems to give us a lift."

What it means: The Ducks now await the winner of the second semifinal between the No. 2 Stanford Cardinal vs. the No. 6 Arizona State Sun Devils. 

It seemed as though UCLA won most stat categories tonight vs. Oregon. Total rebounds: 39-31, advantage UCLA; offensive rebounds: 17-8, advantage UCLA; points in the paint: 26-22, advantage UCLA; second-chance points: 14-7, advantage UCLA; and points off turnovers: 12-4, advantage, you guessed it, UCLA. So what went wrong? Or rather, what did Oregon do better. The Ducks only lead by a total of 4:04, but made every second count. Oregon shot the ball 9-of-19 (47%) from behind the arc, went 10-of-15 from the free-throw line, only committed seven personal fouls (a season-low), and got the ball into it's hot-handed shooters.

"It almost seemed the whole arena was filled with Oregon fans," said Ionescu following the game. "It was really nice and inspiring to see. I was firing them up and they stood with us throughout the whole game. We were down 13, they were still pumping us on and cheering us on, and that's really nice to see. We hope they come out tomorrow and continue to help us get this win."

High flying Ducks: Four Ducks finished in double figures. Lead by Ionescu's 17 points, three rebounds, and five assists, sophomore forward Ruthy Hebard recorded another double-double, her 11th of the season, with 15 points and 13 rebounds. Cazorla finished with 14 points and four rebounds. Bando finished with 11 points going 3-for-5 from three-point range.

Foul play: Freshman Satou Sabally and sophomore Mallory McGwire finished with two fouls a piece. Sabally also left the game with an apparent injury in the fourth quarter.

Up next: The Ducks await the winner of the 2nd Pac-12 tournament semifinal between Stanford and Arizona State. The game will be at 6 PM (PT) Sunday evening in Seattle, WA.

Royce Freeman performed well at the NFL Combine

Royce Freeman performed well at the NFL Combine

Former Oregon running back Royce Freeman ran the 40-yard dash in an impressive 4.54 seconds on Friday at the NFL Scouting Comibine in Indianapolis, Ind.  

His time ranked tied for ninth among the running backs invited to this year's scouting event and made all that more impressive by Freeman's weight of 229 pounds. 

A negative, however, was that Freeman benched 225 pounds just 17 times, which ranked tied for 12th among running backs. Seven running backs did 20 reps or more. One would have though that Freeman, given his size and power, would have done better in this event. 

Freeman did demonstrate great quickness for his size by performing well in the 3-cone drill and the 20-yard shuttle. 

It was a strong overall showing for Freeman, who shouldn't remain on the draft board beyond the third round. 

Here is how Freeman did in his events:

40-yard dash: 4.54 seconds (ninth. Fastest was 4.38).

Bench press (225 pounds): 17 reps (tied for 12th. The most was 29).

Vertical: 34" (tied for 12th with the high being 41").

Broad jump: 118" (tied for 16th. Best was 128").

3-cone drill: 6.9 seconds (third).

20-yard shuttle: 4.16 seconds (third).

60-yard shuttle: 11.64 seconds (fourth out of six times posted). 





Ducks make it rain in Seattle in Pac-12 quarterfinal victory

Ashley Young

Ducks make it rain in Seattle in Pac-12 quarterfinal victory

How Oregon won: It was a beautiful, sunny day here in Seattle, but Oregon found a way to make it rain. Day one for the No. 1 tournament seeded Oregon Ducks and Oregon showed no signs of jitters or nerves and felt like it was back home in Eugene, OR. Senior leader Lexi Bando and freshman Satou Sabally lead the Ducks with a combined 11-of-16 from three-point range. While sophomore Sabrina Ionescu dished out a tournament single-game record 13 assists. The nationally ranked No. 6 Oregon Ducks picked up where they left off the regular season at the top with a Pac-12 quarterfinals 84-47 win over the Colorado Buffaloes in Seattle, WA.

"Sometimes in this first game there might be some tournament jitters, but I don't think we had it," said Oregon coach Kelly Graves. "I was just impressed with how our energy on both ends of the floor. Defensively, and offensively we spread the floor, we were shooting it well, the right people were getting the shots, it was just a really good game. I told them after the game, 'You were inspiring and I was a really proud coach.'"

A few stats to take note of: 16 fast break points for Oregon, showing that the Ducks want to be in control of the tempo and push the ball. The second, winning the rebound battle 40 to 24. 

Sabally, just a freshman and playing in her first post-season tournament, didn't show signs of being a freshman. She was confident shooting the ball and knowing when to give it up to one of her teammates. 

"I think our coaches just told us enough that we have to be ready," Sabally said following the game. "I think that's what it was, we were just ready to play and I was dialed in and my teammates were just all dialed in. It made it easier."

What it means: The Ducks now move into the Pac-12 tournament semi-finals and await the winner of the No. 4 UCLA Bruins vs. the No. 5 California Golden Bears. 

The Ducks' biggest weakness, according to Graves, has been eastablishing a big lead but letting teams back in, so to speak. Oregon gave up three quick three-pointers to the Buffs which called for a Graves timeout to regroup his team. From that point on, the Ducks rolled into halftime with a 45-18 lead. The Ducks held the Buffs to just 15 points in the third quarter and put of 30 themselves. Graves sent in the bench to pick up some minutes and experience and giving his starters a quarter and a half's rest in preparation for tomorrow's semifinals.

Ionescu said, "We talked about it in the locker room. We knew they were going to come out and they were going to play hard the rest of the game. We knew Kennedy (Leonard) and the rest of their guards were going to continue to take it to us but we knew that we had to continue to play well and grow as a team. You never know what happens in March so we did not want to let them get back into the game. We wanted to continue to get better every possession and every play. We let our bench come in and contribute and they played good minutes, so it was nice to see."

High flying Ducks: Oregon's starting five showed up and ready to play, even at the early 11:30 AM hour. Alongside of the hot shooting from Bando and Sabally, Ionescu was two rebounds short of another triple-double finishing with 10 points, 13 assists, and eight rebounds. Sophomore Ruthy Hebard also put together a nice game and finished with a double-double 11 points and 11 rebounds. Junior guard Maite Cazorla also put up nine points on 4-of-5 from the field.

Foul play: Hebard finished with three fouls.

Up next: The Ducks await the winner of UCLA vs. California and will play at 6 PM (PT) tomorrow evening at Key Arena in Seattle, WA.