LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - The 1-Seed Oregon Ducks (30-2, 17-1) survived a 34-point performance from Aari McDonald to make their third consecutive PAC-12 title game, defeating the 4-Seed Arizona Wildcats (24-7, 12-6) 88 to 70.
1ST HALF: Scoring began with an Erin Boley triple and from then on the Ducks never trailed in the PAC-12 Semifinal. Boley played her best basketball in the opening quarter, scoring 12 of her 18 points in the first. Her second three-pointer put the Ducks up by eight, and then Sabrina Ionescu hit a pair of free throws to go up 16 to 6 with 5:39 left, but the WIldcats responded by shoring up their defense and cutting the lead to three after hitting four triples in the first.
Aari McDonald made it a one-point game with a jumper early in the second, but the Ducks went on a 7-0 run consisting of a pair of Ionescu layups and a triple by freshman Jaz Shelley. Then, when McDonald cut the lead to four, back-to-back-to-back triples from Oregon re-established a double-digit lead for the PAC-12 tournament’s top seed. And after scoring just three points in the first, Satou Sabally scored Oregon’s final four points of the quarter to help give the Ducks a 10-point halftime lead. Oregon was up by 13 late in the half, but a last-second triple by McDonald helped the Wildcats reclaim some momentum.
2ND HALF: Arizona regularly cut the lead to under ten in the second quarter, but Oregon always seemed to find an answer when they were threatened. Ruthy Hebard scored off of her own offensive rebound after a Cate Reese jumper cut the lead to eight, then when Reese scored again Erin Boley drained a triple to give the Ducks an 11-point advantage. The Wildcats cut the lead to just six points with 5:21 remaining in the third, but the Ducks put together a 10-3 run which began with a Boley three-pointer and ended with a Ionescu three-pointer. Arizona’s Sam Thomas and Dominique McBryde hit consecutive three-pointers in the final minute to make it an 11-point contest entering the fourth.
However, the Wildcats never managed to push past the Ducks’ double-digit cushion despite an 11-point fourth-quarter performance from Aari McDonald. McDonald played a fantastic game, scoring 34 points on 14-of-25 shooting with four triples. Oregon as a team hit 15 of their 31 shots from downtown and featured stellar games from Sabrina Ionescu (31 points, 9 rebounds, 7 assists), Erin Boley (18 points with four three-pointers) and Taylor Chavez (3-of-3 from three-point range).
For the third straight season, Oregon will take on Stanford in the PAC-12 Tournament Championship game. The battle of the conference elite will take place at 5 PM on ESPN2.
*Sabrina Ionescu (39 min): 9 REB - 7 AST - 1 BLK - 1 STL - 3 TO - 2 PF - 11/16 FG - 6/9 3PT - 3/3 FT - 31 PTS
*Erin Boley (36 min): 5 REB - 3 AST - 1 STL - 1 PF - 7/14 FG - 4/8 3PT - 18 PTS
*Ruthy Hebard (35 min): 11 REB - 5 AST - 2 BLK - 1 STL - 2 TO - 2 PF - 7/11 FG - 14 PTS
*Satou Sabally (32 min): 3 REB - 2 AST - 2 TO - 2 PF - 2/9 FG - 1/6 3PT - 4/7 FT - 9 PTS
*Minyon Moore (15 min): 1 REB - 3 AST - 2 PF - 1/3 FG - 0/1 3PT - 2 PTS
Taylor Chavez (26 min): 4 REB - 2 AST - 2 TO - 2 PF - 3/4 FG - 3/3 3PT - 9 PTS
Jaz Shelley (13 min): 2 REB - 3 AST - 1 STL - 1 TO - 2/5 FG - 1/4 3PT - 5 PTS
Lydia Giomi (4 min): 1 REB - 1 AST
*Aari McDonald: 5 REB - 5 AST - 3 TO - 2 PF - 14/25 FG - 4/9 3PT - 2/4 FT - 34PTS
*Cate Reese: 5 REB- 1 BLK - 1 STL - 1 TO - 4 PF - 6/11 FG - 1/2 FT - 13 PTS
*Dominique McBryde: 4 REB - 2 AST - 1 BLK - 2 STL - 2 TO - 1 PF - 3/8 FG - 2/3 3PT - 1/2 FT - 9 PTS
*Sam Thomas: 3 REB - 3 AST - 2 PF - 3/6 FG - 2/4 3PT - 8 PTS
*Amari Carter: 2 AST - 1 TO - 2 PF - 0/3 FG - 0/1 3PT
NEXT UP: Stanford
3/8, Sunday, 5 PM, ESPN2
... but things aren’t all bad for Aari McDonald, who we should all pray decides to become Oregon’s next great grad-transfer, was proposed to on the PAC-12 Network with the help of fans.