The No. 6 Oregon Ducks defeated the No. 16 Stanford Cardinal 77-57 in the PAC-12 Tournament Championship Game.
Oregon’s victory avenged an earlier loss to Stanford this season, a loss which almost cost the Ducks the top seed in the tournament and the regular season championship. In that game the Ducks started strong against the Cardinal, building a 41-32 lead at the half, but then Brittany McPhee rallied her team to a comeback victory by scoring 31 of her career high 33 points in the final two quarters.
The Ducks played much more disciplined defense this time around, specifically against McPhee who was held to 12 points. Alanna Smith gave her team a fighting chance early on with her 17 points, 5 rebounds and 3 steals- though her 7 turnovers added fuel to Oregon’s offensive fire.
Sabrina Ionescu was worthy of the MVP chant that her fans chanted during the game. It appears the sophomore saved her best performance for the Ducks’ first ever PAC-12 Tournament Championship Game. Ionescu scored a career-high 36 points, breaking the record for most points scored in a PAC-12 Tournament Championship game.
Ionescu ferociously attacked the basket all night, and hit 4 three-pointers in a performance that fell one point shy of Nicole Powell’s single-game record in a PAC-12 tournament game. She also had 4 steals, 4 Assists, 4 rebounds and was 4-4 from the charity stripe. Nothing the Stanford defense did seemed to matter, as Ionescu hit 14-24 field goals. A couple of her most impressive scores came while falling to the floor.
Duck Fans were excited to see Satou Sabally back on the court after a scary injury took her out of the game early against the Bruins. The PAC-12 Freshman of the year scored 12 points and was 3-5 from three point range.
Ruthy Hebard was one rebound shy of yet another double-double. Hebard had 9 rebounds and 11 points in a game where she saw a lot of double coverage. Maite Cazorla also scored in double digits. The Junior had 10 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds and 2 steals.
The most the Ducks ever trailed by was 7, with 6:35 left in the first. Ionescu finished the quarter by scoring 10 points and giving the Ducks a one-point lead going into the second, their first lead of the night.
After the first quarter Stanford trailed the rest of the game. The Ducks fought to a 31-24 halftime score and then used two 23-point quarters to seal the win. Stanford was going for their 13th PAC-12 Tournament Championship, but this was the Ducks’ year for the first time in history.
Although Senior Lexi Bando only scored 5 points, she earned this victory just as much as Ionescu. When Bando was a Freshman, Coach Kelly Graves was in his first season at Oregon. Bando was considering leaving Eugene and playing elsewhere but decided to stay in her hometown and play for the Ducks. In her first season the Ducks went 13-17 and only won six conference games, now the Ducks are the best in the PAC-12 and a National Championship seems more possible than ever.
The Ducks will have to wait till Monday, March 12th before they find out where they are seeded for the Big Dance. ESPN will announce the seeding at 4pm PT. The Ducks are expected to be a 2-seed in the West.