The Oregon Ducks are going to their second sweet sixteen in two years after defeating the Minnesota Golden Gophers in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament, 101-73.
Oregon’s starters played a lot more minutes than their last outing, though the entire bench still averaged about ten minutes a player. The Golden Gophers showed the Eugene crowd that they could score, but if any team has a shot at beating this historic Duck team they must find a way to stop both Sabrina Ionescu and Ruthy Hebard; the Gophers did not.
Ruthy Hebard played 27 minutes and had a double-double (22 Pts, 10 Reb). Her ten rebounds added to what is most likely the defining stat of this victory: Oregon out rebounded Minnesota 42-21. Thirty-one of those rebounds came off of missed shots by the Gophers, which gave Hebard more possessions to dominate.
Sabrina Ionescu once again gave Duck fans a reason to believe this team can compete with the best (AKA UConn). Her 29-minute, 29-point performance fell just shy of earning an 11th career triple double, and also beat the record for most points by an Oregon player in an NCAA tournament game.
Ionescu made four three-pointers, had nine assists, seven rebounds and three steals. She also broke the PAC-12 record for assists in a season with 284. There may be a team in this tournament that can stop Ionescu’s current streak of offensive excellence, but it was not the Redhawks or the Golden Gophers.
For the first few minutes it appeared Minnesota could keep up with the Oregon. A three-pointer by Destiny Pitts tied the game at 11 with 6:14 left in the first quarter, but from then on the Ducks outscored the Golden Gophers 40-25 to finish up the half. Ionescu gave the crowd something to cheer about before she left for the locker room by draining a deep step-back triple while being fouled and falling to the ground. The impressive shot made up for the fact that she missed the free throw afterward.
The Ducks never trailed and lead by as many as 34 points. They shot 61% from the field and were 11-22 from three-point range. The PAC-12 Freshman of the Year, Satou Sabally, finished the game with 12 points, six rebounds, three assists, two steals and a block. Lexi Bando hit three three-pointers in her final game at Matthew Knight Arena.
The Golden Gophers shot often from deep out of desperation. Carlie Wagner (20 Pts, 6-10 3PT) and Destiny Pitts (17 Pts, 4-9 3PT) led the way for their team but did not have the supporting cast necessary to beat the Ducks.
Up next for the Ducks will either be #3 Ohio State or #11 Central Michigan in Spokane, Washington this Saturday.