Oregon Basketball

End of the Line

April 5, 2019
2,495

Baylor 72

Oregon 67

 

In the most important women’s basketball game in Oregon history, the Ducks took on No. 1 Baylor in their first ever Final Four matchup. The Lady Bears have been to the Final Four before, most recently to win it all in 2012, but not a single member of either of these teams had been to a Final Four.

With both of their seasons on the line, the Oregon Ducks came out firing to start, jumping out to an 11-4 lead thanks to the perimeter shooting of Erin Boley. Boley struggled in Oregon’s two matchups in Portland, but she stepped up in Tampa and drilled two first-quarter threes to pace the Ducks in scoring for the first.

After Boley torched the nets for a second time, Baylor coach Kim Mulkey decided enough was enough and called a timeout. Mulkey must have given a heck of a speech, because after that huddle Baylor came out firing on all cylinders on offense and defense.

Baylor dominated Oregon to finish the quarter on a 15-5 run, led by center Kalani Brown and guard Juicy Landrum, who both had 4 points. Baylor was extremely impressive on defense, forcing Oregon into tough shots and bad decisions, forcing 7 turnovers for a Duck team that only averages 10 per game.

Satou Sabally and Ruthy Hebard both struggled on offense; Hebard didn’t score at all, and Sabally, despite adding 5 points, picked up two fouls and was forced to sit for most of the first half. Oregon went into the second quarter trailing 19-15.

Although it took some time, Sabrina Ionescu scored her first points of the game in the second quarter. And then she scored some more. And a few more after that. Ionescu dropped 12 points in the quarter, hitting 3 three-pointers. Ionescu relied heavily on picks set by Lydia Giomi and company, deciding to drive past her defender if they were aggressive, or pulling up for a three-pointer if they dared go under the screen.

Ionescu was helped by Boley and Morgan Yaeger. The two combined for just 5 points, but they were both timely buckets. As for Baylor, the Lady Bears struggled offensively, relying a lot on their defense, and it came through on multiple occasions.

All-American posts Brown and Lauren Cox combined for 3 second-quarter blocks. Brown and Cox also were the focal points of Baylor’s offense, getting easy baskets in the paint or grabbing offensive rebounds and making free throws.

Baylor led the free throw battle 8-2. Despite the disparity, Oregon went into the half leading 34-33.

It was one of the most intense first halves of the season. In a game that experienced 12 lead changes by the end, each possession was a skirmish in search of a victory in the war.

In the most offensively prolific quarter of the game, Oregon was led by the same quintet who have paced them all year. The Ducks grabbed the momentum with back-to-back three-pointers from Ionescu and Sabally, and from there, the Ducks were more aggressive on offense. They drove down the lane and looked for perimeter shooters in traditional Oregon fashion. Another key factor was an increasingly active Hebard, who was able to grab multiple offensive rebounds and finally scored her first basket of the game.

As good as Oregon’s offense was, Baylor's was just as good -- if not better. Once again, Cox and Brown were dominant inside, grabbing offensive rebounds over Oregon’s shorter frontcourt players as if they weren’t even there.

Baylor didn’t make a single three-pointer – and it didn’t need to. Their offense shouldorchestrate from an inside-out perspective, where their frontcourt players will kick out to their shooters on the perimeter. Yet Baylor only has one reliable perimeter shooter, so it does almost all of its work on the inside.

Timely cuts, streaks and rebounds are the life blood of Baylor’s offense. Cox was extremely impressive throughout, but in the third she turned her game up another notch, making winning plays at every turn. Baylor went into the fourth quarter with a 56-55 lead.

In the most pressure-filled quarter of the season for either Oregon or Baylor, both teams looked tight. Oregon really struggled, but still found a way to make clutch shot after clutch shot.

Maite Cazorla and Sabally made huge three-pointers to tie the game, and Oti Gildon, Hebard and Boley all got a basket. The one name missing from that list: Ionescu.

Ionescu, in potentially her last game as a Duck, finished 0-7 from the floor in the final period, just missing on tough shot after tough shot. Ionescu wasn’t the only Duck to struggle down the stretch; Oregon shot just 1-13 from the floor.

Oregon went nearly five minutes in the fourth quarter without making a basket. In the most important time of the year, Oregon’s offense fell flat, even as Baylor struggled from the field as well.

During that five-minute stretch when Oregon couldn’t score, Baylor made just three baskets -- but each was critical. Cox single-handedly beat the Ducks in the end, as she hit two shots and blocked others. A lack of offensive output was the Ducks' downfall as their season came to an end by a score of 72-67.

Despite the disappointment, this Duck team should be better than ever next year -- if Ionescu returns for her senior year. Ionescu will have the next 48 hours to decide whether to enter the WNBA draft.

Regardless, Oregon brings back their core group of Boley, Sabally (and her redshirting younger sister, Nyara), Hebard, Yaeger, Taylor Chavez and Giomi. This Oregon team has helped shape the future for Oregon’s women’s basketball program, and on Friday it showed the nation that the Ducks are here to stay.

 
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