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Sabrina Ionescu: Triple-Double Queen, Freshman Year

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Part One of Four

High School Basketball: McDonald’s All-American Games Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The Oregon Women’s Basketball team reached the PAC-12 Tournament with a 28-2 overall record on a 16-game win streak with 11 victories over top 25 teams, including a 93-86 victory over Team USA at the beginning of the season.

Their 17-1 conference record landed them the 1-Seed in the PAC-12 Tournament, and after defeating Utah, #13 Arizona, and #7 Stanford by a combined score of 256 to 185, Oregon looked primed to make a deep postseason run with a potential number one seed, but alas, it wasn’t meant to be.

The 2019-20 Women’s Basketball season is one of Oregon’s greatest “What Ifs?” but fans shouldn’t let the chaos of Covid-19 erase the legacy of one of the greatest Duck teams in history, led by one of the greatest collegiate basketball players of all time - Sabrina Ionescu. This series will review Ionescu’s career through one of her most famous achievments: her NCAA record 26 career triple doubles.

Miramonte High basketball player Sabrina Ionescu Jose Carlos Fajardo/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images

Sabrina Ionescu, the Triple-Double Queen, finished her freshman season averaging 14.6 points, 6.6 assists, and 34.6 minutes while starting in all 33 of her games. Ionescu scored 20-plus points six times with a season-high of 26, and her four triple-doubles were a new NCAA single-season record as well as a new program record for the Ducks.

Kelly Graves in his third year as head coach led his team to a 23-14, 8-10 record that included a semi-final appearance in the PAC-12 Tournament and a surprise Elite Eight run that featured wins over 7-Seed Temple, 2-Seed Duke and 3-Seed Maryland. Of course, Ionescu wasn’t the only reason why Graves was able to take a program that finished 13-17 in his first year and turn them into a national powerhouse: Lexi Bando, Maite Cazorla and Ruthy Hebard also played on the 2016-17 squad and would play pivotal roles in their future Oregon careers. But it was the outstanding play of the Triple-Double Queen that would eventually take Oregon Women’s Basketball from averaging 2,595 in home attendance during her freshman year to 10,582 during her senior season.

FRESHMAN ACCOLADES

  • USBWA Freshman of the Year
  • ESPNW Freshman of the Year
  • Pac-12 Freshman of the Year
  • All-Pac-12
  • Pac-12 all-Freshman
  • Pac-12 all-Tournament Team
  • NCAA all-Bridgeport Regional Team
Maryland Terrapins vs. Oregon Ducks Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images

FRESHMAN SEASON

1. San Jose State - Sabrina Ionescu scored her first triple-double against the San Jose State Spartans, joining Stefanie Kasperski and Bev Smith as the only other players to do so for the Oregon Women’s Basketball program. This was the first triple-double for the team since 1988, and Ionescu’s stellar performance helped the Ducks win 91-62 in their final game of the Rainbow Wahine Showdown in Honolulu. (11/27/16)

11 POINTS - 11 ASSISTS - 12 REBOUNDS

2. @ Clemson - The No. 25 Ducks played their first game as a ranked team since 2003, and against the previously undefeated Tigers, Ionescu led Oregon to an 87-59 victory and an 8-1 start on the season. The freshman tallied 10 points and four rebounds in the opening quarter alone in her second-highest point total of her young career. (12/12/16)

23 POINTS - 10 ASSISTS - 12 REBOUNDS

3. @ Utah - Oregon was struggling in conference play and entered this contest with a 3-4 record after losing their first three PAC-12 matchups. Ionescu’s high-level of play against the Utes not only gave the Ducks a much needed conference victory, but also gave the fans a glimpse at what this team would become in the future. (1/22/17)

14 POINTS - 13 ASSISTS - 10 REBOUNDS

Attendance: 2,657

4. #15 UCLA - Behind the excellent performances of Lexi Bando, Ruthy Hebard and Sabrina Ionescu, the Ducks beat their first top-15 team in a decade. This game showed Duck fans the potential of both Ionescu and this team; The UCLA victory would be Ionescu’s final triple-double of the season and the most by any freshman in NCAA single-season history. (2/10/17)

11 POINTS - 10 ASSISTS - 10 REBOUNDS

Attendance: 2,438

NCAA BASKETBALL: JAN 15 Women’s - Oregon at UCLA Photo by David Dennis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

POSTSEASON

Despite losing their last three games of the regular season, the Ducks were able to earn a tournament bid by making it to the semi-final of the PAC-12 Tourney. Oregon’s performance in their conference tournament earned them a 10-Seed in the NCAA Tournament where they took part in a Cinderella run that ended in the Elite Eight.

Ionescu scored 16 points against 7-Seed Temple, but it was Hebard’s 23-point game and last-second score that gave the Ducks the 71-70 victory during the First Round. Then, the dynamic duo of Hebard and Ionescu scored a combined 33 points against 2-Seed Duke to punch the program’s first ticket to the Sweet 16.

The unlikely playoff run continued against 3-Seed Maryland. Sabrina Ionescu scored 21 points against the No. 4 ranked Terps to help win the contest 77 to 63. Maryland was the highest ranked team the Ducks had ever defeated. The journey ended with a 90 to 52 loss against the mighty UConn Huskies, who would go on to win their fourth consecutive national championship, but the wild postseason ride was just the beginning of Sabrina Ionescu’s legendary career at Oregon...