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.