On a night when the Ducks shot uncharacteristically poorly, Sabrina Ionescu showed the fans at Matthew Knight Arena why she is considered to be one of the best players in college basketball as the Ducks (16 - 2, 5 - 0) beat the Arizona Wildcats (4 - 12, 0 - 5) by a score of 62 - 44.
The Ducks, having just swept the LA schools for the first time and having reached their highest national ranking at number eight, were hoping to continue their winning ways back at home. On the other side of the PAC, the Arizona Wildcats came in seeking their first conference win of the season behind Senior Kat Wright.
What had the potential to be a game chop full of deep threes, between active career leader Lexi Bando and frequent three-point shooter Kat Wright, proved to be an off night for both teams. Although Bando started the scoring with a beautiful corner three, she would miss every other shot from deep until the last minute of regulation. The Wildcats went on an early run of 10 straight points until Ionescu scored her first field goal of the night. Ionescu quickly found her rhythm and scored 12 of the teams 19 points in the first quarter, including a cold blooded three in the last few seconds.
The Wildcats clawed their way back in the game to tie it at 19 apiece, but the sensational freshman point guard Maite Cazorla drained a three-pointer with around five minutes left in the second. The Ducks would take this momentum and run with it to a 27 - 19 lead, however, Coach Kelly Graves would have a lot to talk about in the locker room as his young team allowed Sam Thomas and the Wildcats to score seven straight points to cut the lead to 27 - 26 before the half.
With Freshman Satou Sabally sitting at three fouls and Lexi Bando experiencing a rare shooting slump, Coach Graves' team looked like it was in for a long night; Luckily, Ionescu was more than willing to drag them across the finish line.
Ionescu opened up the second half with a three-pointer. Then, as the Ducks began to cool off, Freshman Aina Ayuso closed out her teams third quarter scoring by adding two more threes. Before this night Ayuso was 1 of 13 on the season from three point range, but you wouldn't have guessed it with the confidence she had going into the fourth.
Duck fans kept Matthew Knight loud as they celebrated their 45 - 31 lead. The game was never in question after the Lady Ducks' dominant third quarter. Sure shooters began to find their shot at the games not-so-thrilling conclusion. Cazarlo, Ionescu and Arizona's Wright would all drain shots from downtown, and Bando would return back to routine by hitting two more in the last minute of the game.
Sam Thomas (14 Points) and Kat Wright (12 Points) would lead the Wildcats in scoring, while Sabrina Ionescu (22 Points) and Ruthy Hebard (14 Points) would lock down the win for the Ducks. Ionescu got another double-double (22Pts - 11 Reb - 4 Ass) and would have likely broken the NCAA triple-double record yet again if her teammates had a better night on the floor.
What was most impressive about the Ducks' unimpressive win was their resiliency. Proven starters had off nights (though Ionescu to Hebard seems to be an automatic two points) and the Wildcats were surprisingly competitive in the first half, but the Webfoots' bench seems to be ready for any team in the nation.
Up next for the Ducks (16 - 2, 5 - 0) are the 18th ranked Arizona State Sun Devils (13- 4, 4 - 1), once again the game will be played at Matthew Knight Arena. Be sure to watch Sunday at 5pm on the Pac 12 Network, as the Lady Ducks attempt to solidify their top spot in the PAC-12.