Oregon Ducks

Despite defeat, newcomer Ducks are built to last

Despite defeat, newcomer Ducks are built to last

Oregon entered it’s first ever Final Four as the “unproven” new kid on the block and an 8.5-point underdog. UConn, Notre Dame and Baylor are Final Four perennial powerhouses and have won eight of the past 10 national titles. Before 2017, Oregon had never reached the Elite Eight.

The Ducks’ season ended in the national semifinals to Baylor, 72-67, in a gritty battle of contrast in styles that featured 12 ties and 12 lead changes. However, despite defeat, the back-to-back Pac-12 regular season champions proved that not only do they belong among the best in the nation, the Ducks are built to last.

To get to Tampa Bay, Oregon (33-5) broke through the Final Four barrier, in coach Kelly Graves’ fifth season, by upsetting two-time defending national runner up No. 1 seed Mississippi State in the Portland Regional.

[READ: Twitter reacts to Oregon’s 72-67 loss to Baylor in the Final Four]

Despite his pregame message to his team to “have fun," Graves had a plan against the Bears (36-1), who had a major size advantage over the Ducks.

In the first two quarters, Oregon was able to limit Baylor’s high-low game and attempts to hammer the ball deep in toward the basket to 20 points in the paint. The Ducks, the best 3-point shooting team in the country, leaned on their strength, making 8-of-17 (47 percent) from beyond the arc. 

Shockingly, guard Sabrina Ionescu and forward Ruthy Hebard did not score in the first quarter. Ionescu heated up in the second quarter to score 12 points, including a four-point play to send Oregon into the locker room with a 34-33 halftime lead.

The battle of the Bears’ size and the Ducks’ deep strokes was as good as advertised. In the first half alone, the tight game had five lead changes and five ties.

The Ducks opened the second half with a couple of made three-pointers, but Baylor answered with an 8-0 run to surge ahead 45-40. Both teams shined doing what they do best. Through three quarters, Oregon scored 30 points from three-pointers and Baylor scored 36 points in the paint. Baylor did not score a three-pointer in the game, attempting only three.

In the fourth quarter, the Ducks put on a pick-and-roll clinic before going cold at the wrong time.

Forward Satou Sabally tied the game with a clutch three-pointer with 1:20 left to play in the game. Oregon missed on the next possession and was forced to foul. Five days after making their last seven field-goal attempts to beat Mississippi State, the Ducks missed 11 of their last 12 from the floor, sealing the victory for Baylor to advance to the National Championship game.

Despite going 0-for-7 in the fourth quarter, Ionescu lead the team with 18 points. Sabally added 16 points and forward Erin Boley scored 14 points.

It was a tremendous game competed between two of the top programs and the Ducks are here to stay. Whether Ionescu declares for the WNBA Draft or returns for her senior season, the Oregon women’s basketball program has elevated it’s standard and discarded its newbie title among the nation’s elite. With two seniors graduating and a strong recruiting class, Graves has taken the Ducks to new heights and the countdown to next season is on.  

"We’ve got a lot coming back," Graves said. "This is gonna be a team that's loaded."

The L.A. Chargers are moving on from Phillip Rivers.....is it Justin Herbert time?

The L.A. Chargers are moving on from Phillip Rivers.....is it Justin Herbert time?

It's the end of an era for the Los Angeles Chargers.

According to Jay Glazer of Fox Sports, the Chargers have informed quarterback Phillip Rivers that they will move on from him after sixteen seasons.

ESPN's Adam Schefter reported last week that the 38-year-old quarterback moved his family "permanently" from San Diego to Florida. Rivers is a free agent coming off a season where he passed for 4,615 yards and 23 touchdowns, his fewest since 2007, and 20 interceptions. 

Schefter states that the Chargers have been impressed with backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor and may have him start for them next season, which very well may be the case. But, it's hard to believe the Chargers see Taylor as the long-term replacement for Rivers especially when they could have played him last season over him. 

Rivers' replacement may not be on the roster yet, and the Chargers may be looking to the upcoming NFL Draft for his heir... Insert, Justin Herbert?

The Chargers own the sixth overall selection in the upcoming draft which aligns with Herbert's projected draft range of inside the top-ten. The Eugene native has found himself in a consensus top-three among the quarterbacks joining LSU's Joe Burrow and Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa. The former completed arguably the best college season ever for a quarterback winning the Heisman Trophy, National Championship and breaking the touchdown record for a single season. The latter was the consensus top quarterback in the draft before suffering a season-ending hip injury against Mississippi State.

Herbert impressed scouts and NFL coaches alike last week at the Senior Bowl being named the MVP of both the practices and the game. 

Most of the buzz coming out of the Senior Bowl was about Herbert's stellar play which should keep his draft stock high. The event helped Daniel Jones get chosen sixth overall last season after being named MVP of the event. Perhaps history will repeat itself. 

Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan raved about Herbert praising his "prototypical size and athletic ability", intelligence, and a "really, really strong arm". His team also owns the first overall selection in the 2020 NFL Draft. The expectation is that they'll select Joe Burrow, however.

[RELATED: Who won the Senior Bowl? Justin Herbert]

After the Bengals, the next team in need of a quarterback is the Miami Dolphins at No. 5 who infamously appeared to tank the season for a high draft pick. But they had a little too much "Fitzmagic" and received the fifth pick. Speaking of the 37-year-old quarterback, Dolphins general manager expects Ryan Fitzpatrick to return to the team in 2020, so it'd make sense for them to take Tua Tagovaloia and sit him for a season.

That would leave the Chargers on the clock with Justin Herbert as the best quarterback available. Given the rest of the Chargers' roster is loaded with talent, they would want to take advantage of it by getting a high-level quarterback in as soon as possible to make a Super Bowl run. Five of the last eight Super Bowls have had quarterbacks on rookie contracts starting the big game, and it would have been six if Carson Wentz hadn't suffered a torn ACL during the Eagles' championship season.

If Herbert can continue to impress during the draft process at the NFL Combine and his pro day, which by all predictable measures he will, don't be surprised if he's headed to Hollywood. 

Sabrina Ionescu named back-to-back Pac-12 Player of the Week

Sabrina Ionescu named back-to-back Pac-12 Player of the Week

FRIDAY

Sabrina Ionescu and the then-No. 4 Ducks are ready to take on a top-10 opponent and rival in then-No. 7 Oregon State. On Oregon’s first possession, Sabrina Ionescu and Ruthy Hebard do what they do best: a pick-and-roll at the top of the key, Ionescu dishes to a cutting Hebard that results in a bucket. This time, this assist, there was something else present: Ionescu passes Gary Payton and becomes the Pac-12 all-time leader in assists.

The Ducks went onto defeat their rival 76-64. Ionescu finished with 23 points, nine assists, and four rebounds.

SUNDAY

A different kind of emotion.

A visibly distraught Sabrina Ionescu took the court on Sunday afternoon an hour after hearing of Kobe Bryant’s passing. A close friend of hers and a big fan of the Oregon women’s basketball program.

Trying to collect herself to face the then-No. 7 Oregon State Beavers, her father Dan found her in the locker room and told her “Of all the times you worked with him, of all the phone calls, you deserve to play for him and his legacy. Go out and get it done today. Go out and play for Kobe.”

Ionescu finished with a team-high 19 points, eight rebounds and three assists to lead the Ducks past the Beavers 66-57. Oregon also broke the Corvallis curse and for the first time since the 2009-2010 season, the Ducks won in Gill Coliseum.

For the second straight week, Ionescu’s performance earned her Pac-12 Player of the Week honors.

This is the third time this season and eleventh in her career that Ionescu has earned this honor, good for second-most in league history. 

Portland selected as finalist for the NCAA Women’s Basketball Final Four

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Portland selected as finalist for the NCAA Women’s Basketball Final Four

Portland has been announced as a finalist for the 2025 or 2026 NCAA Women’s Basketball Final Four, the NCAA announced this morning.

The bid process was handled collaboratively by Sport Oregon, Oregon State University, the Portland Trail Blazers, and Travel Portland. If the bid is successful, it would be the first time that Portland has hosted the Women’s Final Four.

The other three finalist cities in the running are Columbus, Phoenix, and Tampa.

“We are excited to be named a finalist for the Women’s Final Four, and look forward to the next steps in the process to make this a reality,” said Sport Oregon CEO Jim Etzel via a release from Sport Oregon. “We are tremendously fortunate to have such great bid partners, and a community that is incredibly supportive of women’s athletics.”

The Moda Center will again be hosting the 2020 Women’s Regional in March.

“Oregon State Athletics would like to thank Sport Oregon, the Portland Trail Blazers and Travel Portland for partnering with us in our goal to bring one of the most iconic NCAA Championship events to the Moda Center,” Beaver Vice President and Director of Athletics Scott Barnes said via the Sport Oregon release. “The record breaking success we experienced hosting the NCAA Regional last March and the awareness of the outstanding women’s basketball programs in this region have elevated the sport to new heights. We’re excited to further enhance our Strategic Plan objective to increase the Beaver brand in the Portland metro area.”

The group bidding on the event traveled to Indianapolis in December to make its’ formal presentation to the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Committee.

The next step is for the committee to conduct site tours of the finalist cities this summer and a final presentation will be made to the Committee in September, 2020.

An official decision for 2025 and 2026 for the Women’s Final Four will be made in October, 2020.

After sweeping the Civil War series, Ducks move up in the AP Poll

After sweeping the Civil War series, Ducks move up in the AP Poll

After an emotional, hard-fought weekend, the Oregon Ducks (17-2, 7-1 Pac-12) left victorious on both occasions over their rival Oregon State Beavers (16-4, 4-4 Pac-12).

Their reward? A No. 3 ranking by the Associated Press.

Previously, the Ducks had been ranked No. 4 heading into the back-to-back games against the then-No. 7 Beavers. After walking away from both contests the victor, Oregon showed they belong in a higher tier than their rivals from the north. 

The Beavers dropped to No. 10 after getting swept. 

Let's recap the weekend.

Versus No. 7 Oregon State: 

The Ducks opened up the Civil War weekend with a home game that they looked quite dominant in for stretches. 

After falling behind 10-2 early, the Ducks would storm back to take a 45-29 halftime advantage. The lead would get as high as 21 points in the fourth quarter before a late Beavers rally made things more interesting.

Sabrina Ionescu showed why she's the best player in college basketball by scoring 23 points along with four rebounds and nine assists; including two buzzer-beating three-pointers to end the first and third quarters. 

[RELATED: Instant Analysis: The Ducks break open the floodgates against the Beavers]

@ No. 7 Oregon State: 66-57 WIN

The Ducks persevered through one of the most emotional environments you'll ever see. Just an hour before tipoff, both teams learned that NBA legend Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna tragically passed away. The loss especially affected Ionescu who had developed a relationship with both Bryants.

[RELATED: Sabrina Ionescu paying tribute to Kobe Bryant: “This season is for him”]

Her father told ESPN the advice he gave to his daughter before the contest. "Of all the times you worked with him, of all the phone calls. You deserve to play for him and his legacy. Go out and do it today. Go out and play for Kobe."

She did just that, playing all 40 minutes and putting up 19 points and grabbing eight rebounds. After the game, she told ESPN that this season is for Kobe. 

NEXT: Now Oregon looks ahead to traveling east to play Utah on Thursday at 7:00 p.m. PT, then Colorado on Saturday at 1:00 p.m. PT, before traveling to play No. 4 Connecticut on Monday at 4:00 p.m. PT. 

Oregon men's basketball team moves up in latest AP Poll

Oregon men's basketball team moves up in latest AP Poll

The Ducks are ascending once again.

After sweeping the Los Angeles schools at Matthew Knight Arena this past weekend, the Ducks moved up one spot to No. 11 in the Associated Press Poll.

Oregon (17-4, 6-2 Pac-12) entered the weekend ranked No. 12 after losing in Pullman and narrowly defeating Washington in overtime. 

What's better than one overtime? Two overtimes.

Versus USC: 79-70 2OT WIN

The Ducks outlasted the Trojans in a war of attrition Thursday night winning in double-overtime. Guard Payton Pritchard became the first player in Pac-12 history to record 1,500+ points, 600+ assists, and 500+ rebounds in a career. To defeat the Trojans, he scored 24 points, dished out seven assists and got two steals.  

[RELATED: Instant Analysis: Payton Pritchard sets record, Chris Duarte balls out in win over USC]

However, it was guard Chris Duarte that led Oregon to victory recording one of the more wild stat lines you'll see this season: 30 points, 11 rebounds, and EIGHT steals. Duarte and Pritchard scored all of Oregon's points in double overtime. 

[RELATED: Chris Duarte’s 30 points wasn’t the best part of his game vs. USC]

Versus UCLA: 96-75 WIN

After a stressful win over the Trojans, the Ducks cruised to the program's largest victory over UCLA since 2003, winning 96-75 at Matthew Knight Arena. The Bruins turned the ball over a season-high 23 times, including 15 Oregon steals. Duarte had six of those by himself to go along with 24 points. 

UP NEXT: Oregon travels to Berkeley to play the California Golden Bears (9-10, 3-3 Pac-12) at 6:00 p.m. PT on Thursday, before traveling to Palo Alto to play Stanford (15-4, 4-2 Pac-12) at 3:00 p.m. on Saturday. 

Family members of former Oregon baseball player J.J. Altobelli among victims of helicopter crash

Family members of former Oregon baseball player J.J. Altobelli among victims of helicopter crash

In a tragic helicopter crash that resulted in nine dead, amongst Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna were John, Keri and Alyssa Altobelli, the parents and sister of former Oregon baseball great J.J. Altobelli (2010-2012).

John was the current head baseball coach at Orange Coast County and the former coach of the Brewster Whitecaps, where J.J. played in the summer of 2011.

“John meant so much to not only Orange Coast College, but to baseball,” says Coast Athletic Director Jason Kehler. “He truly personified what it means to be a baseball coach. The passion that he put into the game, but more importantly his athletes, was second to none - he treated them like family. Our deepest condolences go out to the Altobelli family during this time of tragedy.”

According to the Orange Coast College website: Altobelli led the Pirates to numerous conference and state championship titles, notching more than 700 wins during his career and four state championships. In 2019, he was honored by the American Baseball Coaches Association as an ABCA/Diamond National Coach of the Year, a testament to his incredible work ethic and passion for the game.

Alyssa was basketball teammates with Gianna on Kobe’s team.

J.J. is a current scout for the Boston Red Sox.

Our hearts are with you, Altobelli family!

Sabrina Ionescu paying tribute to Kobe Bryant: “This season is for him”

Sabrina Ionescu paying tribute to Kobe Bryant: “This season is for him”

There wasn’t a dry eye on the court. No. 4 Oregon and No. 7 Oregon State met at half court ahead of a 1 p.m. (PT) tip-off at Gill Coliseum.

The huddle was to pray. To pray as one for Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna Maria, who had passed in a helicopter roughly an hour before tip-off.

For the man who had a signature move that most tried to copy off and on the court, stepping back and yelling “Kobe!”, today the world mourns and celebrates you and your daughter Gianna Maria.

There was one player who was not on the court for warm ups: Sabrina Ionescu. Surrounded by head coach Kelly Graves, associate coach Mark Campbell, her family, senior associate athletic director Lisa Peterson and senior guard Minyon Moore, Ionescu tried to collect herself.

Sabrina and Kobe have struck a connection and real friendship these past fews years. Kobe attended Oregon’s games when the Ducks were in Southern California to play USC; he came up to Long Beach State on December 14, 2019; he has critiqued Sabrina’s game on his show ‘Detail’ and has supported women’s sports and women’s basketball.

In her letter to The Players Tribune back on April 6, 2019, when Sabrina announced she would forgo the WNBA Draft and return to Oregon for her senior season, Ionescu wrote about Kobe:

"And as I kept watching that video over and over, again and again — there’s two main thoughts that were going through my head. One: Kobe got me. He just nailed my game, dead to rights. He was analyzing my pick-and-roll, pointing out specific plays where I should have finished with my left hand instead of my right….. the whole deal. Every analysis was so spot on. It was like seeing genius at work."

This one hit a little deeper for Ionescu.

She paid tribute to Mamba and his daughter with “Forever 24” written on her shoes today.

It was difficult. Sabrina never did go out and warm up. It was touch and go. I know her family was there trying to help her through it. It’s like losing a family member. And I know every body is touched in some way or inspired by Kobe Bryant but it really hit home to this team. — head coach Kelly Graves

Ionescu trotted out with the Ducks with 12 minutes and 34 seconds until tip-off.

There was a moment of silence for Kobe before the national anthem. In front of a sold out crowd at Gill Coliseum, some were hearing the news for the first time. The only thing you could hear in the entire arena was the soft hum of the air conditioning unit. 

Sitting two rows behind the Oregon bench, sporting a #20 Nike green Ionescu jersey, was Sabrina’s father. In an interview before the game with ESPN, he told reporters the advice he gave to Sabrina:

Of all the times you worked with him, of all the phone calls. You deserve to play for him and his legacy. Go out and do it today. Go out and play for Kobe. — Ionescu’s father.

And she did. And the Ducks did.

For the first time in the Kelly Graves and Sabrina Ionescu era at Oregon, the Ducks have won in Corvallis over the Oregon State Beavers. 

The trio of senior Sabrina Ionescu, senior Ruthy Hebard and junior Satou Sabally combined for 48 of Oregon 66 total points. It was a first half that needed every bit of these three. Ionescu finished with 19 points, eight rebounds and three assists. Hebard with another double-double of 13 points and 14 rebounds. And Sabally with 16 points, nine rebounds and four assists.

The Ducks found themselves down at halftime, 37-34 to the Beavers. Graves went with more of a defensive lineup in the third quarter: Jaz Shelley, Taylor Chavez, Sabrina Ionescu, Satou Sabally and Ruthy Hebard. With these five on the floor, Oregon held a 12-0 run and held the Beavers scoreless for seven minutes in the fourth quarter. Oregon finished the quarter holding Oregon State to only eight points on 3-of-12 from the field and 1-of-5 from three-point range.

A big part of the third quarter was Oregon State senior point guard Mikayla Pivec picking up her fourth personal foul. Pivec was a huge spark for the Beavers on both ends of the court, but picking up her fourth foul forced her to switch her game and play more cautiously.

This third quarter spark was enough to lift No. 4 Oregon (17-2, 7-1 Pac-12) past No. 7 Oregon State (16-4, 4-4 Pac-12) 66-57 in Gill Coliseum.

But the win is bittersweet on a day where a role model and friend had passed.

I’m proud of the team who stepped up for their sister Sabrina and helped her. — Graves

At some point, every one of her teammates came up and said to Sabrina, “We’re going to do this for you.”

When the game clock hit 00:00, the emotions flooded back in. A visibly sad Ionescu made her way through a two-question post game interview with ESPN before heading the locker room and eventually back to Eugene.

I mean, everything I do, I do it for him obviously. Really close friend and this season’s for him. — Sabrina Ionescu

With a heavy heart and watery eyes, this season is for Mamba.

Instant Analysis: No. 4 Oregon breaks the Corvallis curse, defeats No. 7 Oregon State for Civil War sweep

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USATI

Instant Analysis: No. 4 Oregon breaks the Corvallis curse, defeats No. 7 Oregon State for Civil War sweep

CORVALLIS - For the first time in the Kelly Graves, Sabrina Ionescu era at Oregon, the Ducks have won on the road in Corvallis. 

No. 4 Oregon (17-2, 7-1 Pac-12) completes the Civil War sweep over No. 7 Oregon State (16-4, 4-4 Pac-12) with a 66-57 win in front of a sold out crowd at Gill Coliseum.

Here are three quick takeaways from the game:

SECOND HALF DOMINANT DEFENSE 

The Ducks found themselves down at halftime, 37-34 to the Beavers. But in the third quarter, Graves went with a defensive lineup: Jaz Shelley, Taylor Chavez, Sabrina Ionescu, Satou Sabally and Ruthy Hebard. With these five on the floor, Oregon held a 12-0 run and held the Beavers scoreless for seven minutes in the fourth quarter.

SHARP-SHOOTING TAYLOR CHAVEZ

In her second season in an Oregon uniform, sophomore Taylor Chavez has stepped up big in these past few games. Whether it’s on the defensive end or stepping back for a three-pointer, she has proven to be quite the spark off the bench. Chavez currently leads the Pac-12 conference in three-point percentage (47.2%) and finished today with eight points going 2-for-2 from downtown.

THE OREGON TRIO

The trio of seniors Ionescu, Ruthy Hebard and junior Satou Sabally combine for 48 points in the win.

Sabally was the And-1 queen. The 6-foot-4 junior forward kept Oregon in the game in the first half and recorded 13 points and five rebounds. She finished with 16 points, nine rebounds and four assists.

NEXT UP: Oregon hits the road for a weekend in the mountains first at Utah on Thursday night at 7 p.m. (PT)

Sabrina Ionescu honors Kobe Bryant and daughter Gianna with “Forever 24” on her game shoes

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Steve Tannen Twitter

Sabrina Ionescu honors Kobe Bryant and daughter Gianna with “Forever 24” on her game shoes

A small gesture but one that sends a powerful message today. 

As Oregon senior guard Sabrina Ionescu took the court ahead of part two of this Civil War series with red eyes and puffy cheeks, there was a small message hand-written on her shoes: “Forever 24.”

Host of Crunchtime/SportsTalk on CBS radio Steve Tannen snapped the picture.

Sabrina and Kobe have met several times in person. He attended Oregon’s game at USC last season. He critiqued her game on his show ‘Detail.’ She wrote about it in her letter to Duck Nation via the Players Tribune. To have one of the best to ever play the game critique your own is of the utmost respect and honor.

As always in the stands was Sabrina’s father, sporting a #20 Nike green jersey sitting two rows behind the Oregon bench at Gill Coliseum.

Before the game, here are his words and advice to his daughter during this tough time:

Of all the times you worked with him, of all the phone calls. You deserve to play for him and his legacy. Go out and do it today. Go out and play for Kobe — Ionescu’s father.

We couldn’t agree more.