The 2 seed Oregon Ducks fought their way back to their second elite eight in two years by defeating the Central Michigan Chippewas 83-69.
If a time traveler would have told Head Coach Sue Guevara before the game that Central Michigan would hold Oregon’s star player Sabrina Ionescu to just seven points at the half it’s likely the Chippewas’ head coach would’ve felt pretty confident in her team’s chances of pulling off the upset just like they did against Ohio State the game before.
However, Central Michigan learned a simple truth about Oregon women’s basketball: you have to find a way to slow down BOTH Sabrina Ionescu and Ruthy Hebard in order to beat the Ducks.
Ionescu hit only three shots in the first half, which included a three-pointer and two jumpers that opened and closed first-half scoring for the Ducks. However, Hebard scored eight points in the first and second quarter to help give Oregon a 40-25 lead at the half, a lead that proved insurmountable for the cheeky Chippewas.
To the credit of Central Michigan, the third quarter was much more competitive as Tinara Moore (23 Pts, 14 Reb, 2 Ast) , Presley Hudson (15 Pts, 5 Ast, 3 Reb) and Cassie Breen (11 Pts, 3 Reb, 1 Ast) brought their team to within nine, but an 11-2 run spearheaded by Oti Gildon killed the momentum for the underdogs.
One of the biggest advantages that Oregon had going into this sweet sixteen matchup (besides the fact that they were literally bigger) was their depth. Central Michigan has five very talented starters but as the game went on their exhaustion became apparent, and the three bench players who saw playing time had a total of 13 minutes and 2 points.
On the other hand, Oti Gildon received more playing time than regular starter Satou Sabally. Gildon’s glorious return to her hometown of Spokane, Washington was perhaps the most intriguing aspect of this game. She finished with 10 points, seven rebounds, two blocks and an assist. All season the junior has proven herself as a serviceable backup to Hebard, but in this high-pressure game Gildon gave the locals a reason to believe that she can play a crucial role against Notre Dame.
Ionescu would eventually work her way back up to another typical impressive stat line (16 Pts, 10 Ast, and 9 Reb), falling one rebound short of yet another triple-double, and in front of John Stockton nonetheless! Lexi Bando hit 4 of her 11 three-point attempts while Maite Cazorla (8 Pts, 4 Ast, 3 Reb) and Satou Sabally (7 Pts, 4 Reb, 3 Ast) played below their potential offensively.
But the real MVP of this game was Ruthy Hebard (23 Pts, 14 Reb, 6 Blk) who was a consistent threat even when her teammates were having a hard time. Perhaps it was Guevara’s interview that inspired such an amazing showing from the sophomore, in which she suggested Hebard’s scoring ability was due to her only making layups. Well, that’s not all she does, she also wins.
Now the Ducks will move on to the elite eight to face Notre Dame. A win would send Oregon Women’s Basketball to it’s first ever final four.
Oregon vs Notre Dame
3/26, 6 PM PT. ESPN