The Oregon Ducks (20-3, 9-1) watched a large lead shrink and then expand again in their 84-68 victory over the Utah Utes (14-7, 5-5).
Many a sports "journalist" reported that Maite Cazorla would not play based on her disappearance in the third quarter of Friday's game against Colorado (including this sports "journalist"). Cazorla had her hand stepped on and in the after-game radio interview Coach Kelly Graves expressed some doubt over whether she would play against the Utes. Luckily, Cazorla was not only cleared to play but ready to have an exceptional game, leading all scorers with 21 points and shooting a perfect 5/5 from three-point range.
The Ducks scored rapidly and played inspired defense for most of the first quarter, outscoring Utah 23-4 for the first 7 minutes of the game. The Utes were the team most suited to deal with Oregon's height- these being the two tallest teams in the PAC-12- however, Oregon's athleticism, accurate shooting, and offensive rebounds (combined with Utah's low accuracy) gave this game the appearance of a quick blowout.
Unfortunately, as us Duck fans know, sometimes a big lead can be poison to a team. The Ducks started to play less disciplined and turnovers became rampant (17 in total), all the while Utah began to gain confidence after seeing some impressive play from their bench. After the first commercial time out with three minutes left in the first, the Utes pulled within three points in the third quarter, outscoring the Ducks 24-8 during their run.
Oregon would eventually pull out to a 43-32 halftime lead thanks to Freshman Forward Satou Sabally's 13 first-half points. Although the lead was comfortable, especially for a team that has yet to lose when leading at the half, the Ducks must have felt a blown opportunity to end this game early. Instead, the Utes played a competitive third quarter that kept pace with the high scoring Ducks.
Stop me if you've heard this one before, but the difference maker would be Sabrina Ionescu and her triple-double. The sensational sophomore scored 19 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds for her 9th triple-double, adding to her all-time leading career triple-double record.
The Ducks had four players end with more than 10 points. Cazorla (21 Pts), Ionescu (19 Pts), Sabally (15 Pts), and Hebard (15 Pts) showed what this team looks like when it is firing on all cylinders- well, almost all cylinders. The sharp-shooting senior Lexi Bando was shown draining three-pointers in her walking boot before the game.
The Utes' Megan Huff and Emily Potter had trouble recreating the magic they had against the Beavers. Against Oregon State, Huff scored 26 points and Potter 14, but against the Ducks both upperclassmen only scored five points each. The silver lining in their homecourt loss is the plethora of players who scored in double digits. Daneesha Provo (19 Pts) and Tori Williams (10 Pts) kept the game close at times, while Tanaeya BoClair (13 Points) and Tilar Clark (12 Points) led a 2nd quarter surge off the bench.
Next up for the No.7 Ducks are the No. 23 California Golden Bears (15-6, 6-4) in Eugene, Friday at 8PM.