Coming off an emotional overtime win in which they stormed back from a 17-point deficit to beat Arizona, Oregon (9-5 overall) came into the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday with a chance to show this year’s Ducks deserve consideration among the nation’s top teams. The Ducks faced a home date with perennial hoops power the University of Connecticut Huskies (9-3). After falling behind early, Oregon showed its quality, winning 72-59.
UConn came out hot early, working the ball inside and taking advantage of an Oregon cold streak. The Ducks missed their first 5 shots from the field and trailed 10 - 0 after the first 3 minutes. But Sydney Parrish and Nyara Sabally sandwiched 3-pointers around a UConn layup to get Oregon going and close to 12 - 6. The teams mostly traded missed shots and turnovers, until Te-Hina PaoPao scored a layup with 4:35 left in the quarter to bring Oregon within 4. UConn scored another layup with 2:27 left, a shot that would turn out to their last points for quite a while as Oregon cranked up its interior defense. Trailing 14 - 8, the Ducks went on a 7 - 0 run to close out the quarter, with PaoPao scoring all 7 points. At the quarter break, Oregon led 15 - 14. PaoPao led the Ducks with 9 points in the quarter. Oregon’s defense held UConn to 0 - 4 shooting from behind the 3-point line.
Oregon continued to play aggressive defense as the second quarter began, forcing turnovers and a 24-second clock violation on UConn. Sabally picked up her second foul after only 2 minutes were gone in the quarter, and went to the bench as Oregon led 17 - 14. PaoPao, who said before the game she believed she was at 90 percent after coming back from injury, hit a 3 and Kylee Watson and Sedona Prince hit baskets down low to give Oregon a 24 - 14 lead with 6:19 left in the half. Prince then hit 2 free throws and UConn broke an almost-7 minute scoring drought with its first basket of the quarter. The teams again traded turnovers and missed shots until UConn scored a layup on a Duck turnover. Prince scored 4 straight Oregon points, but UConn answered each time as Oregon maintained its lead at 32 - 22 with 2:40 to play. Oregon stretched the lead to 39 - 24 at the half thanks to 2 free throws from Phillipina Kyei and a layup and + 1 by Endyia Rogers. Oregon was led in the half by PaoPao and Prince, who scored 12 points each. PaoPao also chipped in 6 rebounds and Rogers and Maddie Scherr each had 3 assists. Oregon shot 48.3 percent from the field and 7 - 8 from the free throw line. The Ducks outscored UConn 39 - 14 after falling behind early.
UConn appeared to be finding its footing early in the quarter, scoring two layups and hitting its first 3-point shot of the game. But Oregon countered with a PaoPao banked 3-pointer and a Sabally inside move for a bucket. A UConn 3 was answered with a Scherr 3 and Oregon maintained a 13-point lead with 7 minutes left in the quarter. Oregon ran out to its biggest lead at 53 - 36 as Prince, Sabally and PaoPao scored, and forced a UConn time out. Oregon’s lead reached 20 with 2 minutes left in the quarter, as the Duck defense continued to force UConn turnovers and convert them into baskets and free throws. A 3-pointer by Ahlise Hurst gave Oregon a 23 point lead at 62 - 39 with 45 seconds left, and UConn scored on a jumper to close to 62 - 41 at the end of the third. Oregon won the quarter 23 - 17.
With the game well in hand, the Ducks were content to run the shot clock on many of their fourth quarter possessions. Oregon had its largest lead at 67 - 43 after a Hurst three. The lowlight of the quarter was a scary collision involving Sabally. While fighting for a rebound, she fell hard while being run into by a teammate. Replays showed her previously injured knee took an impact. No word on her condition was available at press time with some later reports indicating any injury might not be too serious. The teams again went several possessions each with either turnovers or missed shots. A UConn basket brought them within 18 with 3 minutes left, but a putback basket by Watson and a PaoPao 3 wrapped around a UConn 3 kept Oregon’s lead at twenty 72 - 52 with 1:30 left. UConn managed to avoid its first loss by 20 or more points since 2007 by going on a late 7 - 0 run. The final was 72 - 59, as Oregon gave notice it’s a team to be reckoned with this season.
This was only Oregon’s second game with its “Big 3” back from injury and Sabally’s status is now the biggest question mark the team faces. PaoPao led Oregon with 22 points and 8 rebounds, while Watson added 6 rebounds off the bench. Rogers led Oregon with 6 assists. The defeat for UConn was the first time since 2003-04 it has lost to 2 unranked teams in the same season.
Oregon (10-5) next travels to Seattle to take on the other Huskies on Friday, January 21.