The Oregon Ducks (26-4, 15-2) pushed past a rocky start to defeat the Arizona State Sun Devils (19-10, 10-7) in a 57-44 victory.
The Ducks had not won a game in Tempe in their last 15 attempts, since 2000. They had not won a regular season championship since the 1999-2000 season, and had never won more than 25 games in a season, a record first set during the 1998-99 season. All these streaks came to a crashing halt as the Ducks took care of business in the second half.
There are many cliché reasons why a team in Oregon’s position would have such an off first half against a team like ASU. There’s the “trap game” excuse- after coming off a program defining win against No.10 UCLA it’s possible the Ducks had a lapse in focus against what most would consider an easy win going into this matchup.
There’s also the possibility that the Ducks were just tired. The LA schools nearly pushed Oregon to their breaking point (USC lost in double overtime and then two days later UCLA lost in overtime.) Oregon’s starters played massive minutes in both games and Junior Maite Cazorla suffered a late leg injury against UCLA.
However, both of these reasons unfairly write off the stupendous defensive play of the Sun Devils. All night Arizona State forced Oregon’s starters to take tough shots, and on a night when the Ducks shot uncharacteristically poorly (25-55 FG, 4-15 3PT) it seemed like the Devils would get their due.
Fortunately, the Ducks slowly fought their way back to within 1-point before the half and from then on took control of their destiny. The Ducks more than made up for a six-minute stretch in the first quarter where they were held to a measly 2 points by outscoring the Devils 13-2 in the last six minutes going into the fourth.
Although ASU managed to hold the Ducks to their lowest score this season (a feat made more impressive when you realize that ASU came into this game averaging 57.1 points against, showing some pretty remarkable defensive consistency), Oregon’s Sabrina Ionescu (16 Pts, 8 Ast, 5 Reb), Maite Cazorla (14 Pts, 2 Ast, 1 Reb) and Ruthy Hebard (14 Pts, 6 Reb, 1 Blk) showed enough of their skill to coast to a 13-point win.
Up next for the Ducks is their final game before the PAC-12 tournament and a chance to win sole ownership of the conference championship.
Oregon vs Arizona (6-22, 2-15)
Sunday, 11 AM