Ruthy Hebard

Oregon WBB appearing more like a perennial national contender by the minute

Oregon WBB appearing more like a perennial national contender by the minute

Fresh off a Final Four run, the Oregon women’s basketball program is proving that not only do they belong among the best in the nation, the Ducks are built to last.

Expected to be the strong favorite to win the national title in 2019-20, UO’s roster is locked and loaded for years to come. Coach Kelly Graves was tasked with replacing several outgoing Ducks (Sabrina Ionescu, Ruthy Hebard) and answered with an exceptional month of recruiting.

Yesterday, Kylee Watson, the nation’s No. 18 overall prospect, announced her commitment to Oregon. The powerful post player committed to Oregon over Notre Dame and UCLA.

The 6-foot-3 forward is the fifth Oregon commit for the class of 2020, which is shaping up to be the nation’s No. 1 class.

The back-to-back Pac-12 Conference regular season champions have had a flaming hot month on the recruiting trail. Not only does Oregon have five commitments, which is three more than any other team (Notre Dame has two), but the athletes are picking the Ducks from all over the country (four of the five are not from the west coast). 

Four of the nation’s top 23 prospects have committed to Oregon. No other program has more than one.

Joining Watson is Sydney Parish, the nation’s No. 11 overall prospect and the No. 1 guard in the class of 2020, according to ESPNW. As irreplaceable as the triple-double queen is, Parrish has all the tools to pick up and lead the Ducks when Ionescu turns pro.

The elite guard was Oregon’s first verbal commitment for the 2020 class and has been an active recruiter for the Ducks.

Rounding out the 2020 commitments is; forward Angela Dugalic (No. 22), guard Maddie Scherr (No. 23) and point guard Te-Hina PaoPao (No. 40).

It’s safe to say UO has discarded its “newbie” title among the nation’s elite.

Ionescu gives Oregon the house advantage in Las Vegas; Ducks take home the gold

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USA 3x3 Action Photos

Ionescu gives Oregon the house advantage in Las Vegas; Ducks take home the gold

The familiarity with the big stage for Oregon women’s basketball keeps growing. Just 31 days following a NCAA Final Four loss, four Ducks traveled to Las Vegas, Nevada for the USA 3x3 basketball tournament: Sabrina Ionescu, Ruthy Hebard, Oti Gildon and Lydia Giomi.

If you’re unfamiliar with the rules of 3x3, it is first to 21 points shooting two’s and three’s using only half a court.

The championship game ended with Sabrina on the free throw line, a place where she dominates shooting .883% last season. She calmly and cooly drained two free throws to claim the title, 21-20. 

The Ducks are now back-to-back USA 3x3 tournament champs after last season’s team of Ionescu, Hebard, Gildon, and Erin Boley took home the gold as well. Ionescu also earned the back-to-back MVP Award.

Why this matters

Sabrina’s “Unfinished Business” for this upcoming basketball season begins with a championship win. After announcing she would forgo the WNBA Draft (the projected No. 1 pick) and return to Oregon for her senior season via a letter in the Players Tribune, Sabrina has all eyes set on a National Championship.

Obviously, playing 3x3 is much different than 5x5 as it is a lot quicker movements and more pick-and-roll action on a smaller court (just half). The Ducks who have already proven just how dominant their pick-and-roll game is (with Ionescu and Hebard) now have another weapon to turn to: Giomi. The 6’6” junior from Seattle, Washington saw some playing time this past season, but mostly sat behind both Hebard (the starter) and Gildon. But Gildon is a graduating senior and her departure will possibly open the door for more minutes for Giomi. 

After the championship victory, Giomi said, “I see Sabrina every single day of my life, but for others, she’s something crazy,” said Giomi. “One thing you realize, even when you’re in practice – Sabrina’s team always wins.”

Ruthy is ruthless in Ducks' Sweet 16 victory

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Ruthy is ruthless in Ducks' Sweet 16 victory

How Oregon won: A bit of nerves perhaps in the opening minutes, for the Oregon Ducks settled in nicely in this NCAA Sweet 16 matchup against the Central Michigan Chippewas. Lead by sophomore forward Ruthy Hebard down low, on both sides of the court, the No. 2 Ducks cruised to an 83-69 win over No. 11 Central Michigan and punch their ticket into the Elite 8.

It took awhile for both team to get settled in. Two hot-shooting three-point teams, and neither hit a three-pointer until halfway through the first quarter. Hebard established her game early. Her teammates found her down low, one or two dribbles to get to her right side, and then a high-percentage layup, the shot she has mastered so much this season. 33 times in a row, in fact. Hebard records her second double-double of the post-season tournament with 23 points and 14 rebounds. She needed four more blocks for a triple-double.

The Ducks defense came to play as well. Central Michigan comes in ranked No. 13 in 3-pt field goals attempted. Oregon coach Kelly Graves said during pregame that the Ducks must be mindful and defend the three-point line, and make sure the Ducks get on the boards because the Chippewas like to pass the ball out if they get an offensive rebound. Oregon’s defense held Central Michigan to 7-of-27 (26%) from behind the arc. Along with making sure there was a hand in the air on the Chippewas shooters, Oregon also recorded 11 total blocks, six alone coming from Hebard. Oregon will need that same defensive pressure down low against Notre Dame on Monday with their height down low.

What it means: The No. 2 Ducks are headed to the NCAA Elite 8 for back-to-back consecutive seasons and will face No. 1 Notre Dame on Monday evening in Spokane, WA. The Irish are coming off a 90-84 battle against No. 4 Texas A&M lead by starters Marina Mabrey and Arike Ogunbowale’s 25 points each.

High-flying Ducks: Sophomore guard Sabrina Ionescu continues to shine when the spotlight keeps getting brighter. Ionescu was one rebound shy of her 11th career triple-double. She finished with 16 points, 10 assists, and nine rebounds. Senior Lexi Bando finished with 14 points hitting 4-of-11 from three-point range. Junior Oti Gildon, playing in front of her home town fans of Spokane, came up again huge with 10 points and seven rebounds off the bench. She continues to be a stable presence off the bench for Graves.

Foul play: Gildon finished with three fouls. 

Welcome to the 1,000 career points club, Hebard & Ionescu!

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Welcome to the 1,000 career points club, Hebard & Ionescu!

How Oregon won: Sweep complete. Unselfishness, poise, and a pair of new 1,000 career-point members. This was an all-around complete game from the No. 9 Oregon Ducks against the Washington State Cougars. The Sophomore studs of Ruthy Hebard and Sabrina Ionescu combined for 46 points, Ionescu added nine assists, and Hebard nine rebounds that powered the Ducks (23-4, 12-2 Pac-12) past the Washington State Cougars (10-16, 3-11 Pac-12) 90-79 in Pullman, WA.

A perfect 12-for-12 from the field and 5-for-5 from the free throw line for Ruthy Hebard. Coming off a career high 30-point performance in Seattle vs. the Huskies carried over the five hour drive east to Pullman. Her consistency is part of Oregon’s foundation for success.

Her partner in crime, Ionescu was on triple-double watch once again, but fell short by five rebounds and one assist. She finished with 17 points, nine assists, and five rebounds, and hitting clutch free throws down the stretch.

What it means: Welcome back Lexi Bando. The senior leader for the Ducks made her return this afternoon after suffering a stress fracture in her foot before the first Civil War back in January. At the 1:37 mark in the first quarter, the senior subbed in. And at the 1:12 mark, she immediately does what Bando does best: hit three-pointers. Bando played just 12 minutes, but made the most of it finishing with nine points on 3-for-6 from three-point range. Her hot shooting causes the defense to keep one eye on her on the perimeter allowing for opportunities for high-to-low movement down low for Hebard and Mallory McGwire. 

Oregon got it done on the interior once again. 40 points in the paint, created nine WSU turnovers and capitalizing on those turnover turning them into 12 points. 

An area of improvement for the Ducks today was perimeter defense. WSU shot 55% (11-for-20) from three-point range, five Cougars scored in double digits, and let off the gas in the final minutes of the game. Oregon will have to stay consistent throughout the full 40 minutes against any opponent in the Pac-12.  

High flying Ducks: Four Ducks scored in double digits. Alongside Ionescu and Hebard, freshman Satou Sabally was locked in early on. Sabally was a perfect 3-for-3 to start this one off and finished with 17 points on 5-of-7 from the field. Junior Odi Gildon, coming off a nine-point game vs. Washington, had another nice game finishing with 10 points and five rebounds off the bench.

Foul play: Hebard finished with four fouls.

Up next: The Ducks head home to host the USC Trojans (16-8, 6-7 Pac-12) at 6 PM (PT) this Friday at Matthew Knight Arena.  

No. 10 Oregon pours in 89 in PAC-12 opener; routs WSU 89-56

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No. 10 Oregon pours in 89 in PAC-12 opener; routs WSU 89-56

Oregon 89, Washington State 56

How Oregon won: Defense. Defense. Defense. Oregon shot poorly from behind the ar but got the job done at the other end of the court. The Ducks defense forced 18 turnovers and scored 25 points off of those turnovers. They also recorded 14 steals vs. the Washington State Cougars (7-6, 0-1 Pac-12). The UO offense finally got into rhythm behind sophomores Ruthy Hebard, who finished 25 points and 10 rebounds, and Sabrina Ionescu, who also scored 25 points.  No. 10 Oregon (12-2, 1-0) started conference play on the right foot with an 89-56 win over the Cougars.

What it means: The Ducks opened up PAC-12 play with a win. Despite a slow start in the first half, Oregon built a lead off of its strong defensive effort, grabbing rebounds, and pushing the tempo. 

"I thought it was a great way for us to start league," Oregon coach coach Kelly Graves said. "I told the kids at half 'I was really proud of them'. We built a nice lead, primarily off our defense. We didn't shoot the three that well, and it's nice to know you're going to have games like that. So we were able to rely on our defense and on Ruthy (Hebard) inside... I told the team 'I think that's a sign of a maturing group. Even on those nights when we're not shooting it like we normally do, we found other ways to get it done."

High flying Ducks: Freshman Satou Sabally contributed to the team's 42 points in the paint  with14 points. Senior guard Lexi Bando got hot once again from three-point land finishing 4-of-10 from behind the arc while scoring 18 points.

"We had to buckle down and get some stops," said Ionescu following the game. "I think we kind of let up our intensity a little bit knowing that we were up by a lot and you can't do that in the PAC-12. Teams are coming out regardless if you're down by 20 or up by 20, they are going to play their hardest every time. We definitely buckled down and got some stops and ended the game the way we should have."

Foul play: A clean game all around for the Ducks. Only Bando and Sabally finished with two fouls a piece.

Up next: The Ducks (12-2) stay home to host the Washington Huskies (6-5) at 1 PM this Saturday at Matthew Knight Arena.

Oregon basketball teams to hold double-header charity games Saturday

Oregon basketball teams to hold double-header charity games Saturday

The Oregon men's and women's basketball teams will play a pair of charity exhibition games on Saturday morning at Matthew Knight Arena to raise money for those affected by the wildfires that ravaged the state last summer.

Admission is $10 for the double-header event that will not be televised. Money raised will go to the American Red Cross Oregon Wildfire Fund. Payment must be in the form of cash or check. Credit cards will not be accepted. The games are being held early in order to be done in time for fans to attend the Oregon football team's 2:45 p.m. game against Utah at Autzen Stadium. 

The women’s team will host Portland State at 9:30 a.m. 

“This is a great opportunity for our fans to get a look at two exciting teams,” UO women's coach Kelly Graves said in a prepared statement. “While at the same time, we are joining forces with Portland State to help with the recovery efforts in fire-damaged areas of our great state.”

The men’s team will play at 11 a.m. against Idaho.

“The NCAA has given us a unique opportunity to give back to our state, and we are honored to be able to do that,” Oregon men's coach Dana Altman said. “We want to encourage those fans who are coming to Eugene for the football game to come early and watch basketball for a good cause.”

The men’s team reached the Final Four last season. The women's team made it to the Elite Eight for the first time in program history.

Doors will open at 9:00 a.m., and all seating is general admission.