Colorado found out the hard way that the Ducks mean business in Seattle.
Oregon blew off the doors in the Pac-12 tournament quarterfinal with an 84-47 win over the No. 9 seed Buffaloes in the early game at Key Arena.
“We anticipated a tough game and that motivated us. Our energy was on point. It was just a really good game,” Kelly Graves said. “This team is maturing right before our eyes. We built a nice lead and then played our best basketball of the season. We’re still a maturing team.”
At one point, the Ducks held a 71-20 lead in the middle of the third quarter and that was when Graves decided that was enough. He was able to rest his starters for the last 12 minutes, which is crucial if they want to win three games in three days.
Despite playing just two and a half quarters, the starters managed to break some records. They nailed 13 treys, assisted on 22 baskets, scored 32 third quarter points, and Sabrina Ionescu dished out 13 assists, all conference tournament marks.
Satou Sabally led the way with 21 points on 5-of-7 from long range. Lexi Bando scored 19 points on 6-of-9 from three-point range. The senior guard is now just three treys away from being the all-time school leader for three-pointers made.
“Having Lexi back is nice,” Graves said. “We haven’t lost since she’s returned.
Ionescu was just two rebounds away from her 11th career triple-double and if the game wasn’t so out of hand, the sophomore guard would have had it. Instead, Ionescu had to settle for 10 points, eight boards and all of those assists.
Ruthy Hebard also added 11 points and 11 rebounds.
Oregon took complete control of the game in the second quarter by outscoring the Buffs 21-6 to take a 45-18 halftime. The Ducks have often said one of their biggest weaknesses is losing focus when having a large lead.
The Ducks came out of the locker room on a mission, hitting on their first eight shots and eventually outscoring Colorado 32-15 in the third quarter.
“It (the big lead) gave us a chance to play the bench,” Graves said. “That quarter and a half of rest could play big for us if we play Sunday. We’ve shown flashes of playing good defense. We were locked in. That can sustain us on nights the ball doesn’t go in.”
But the ball wasn’t going in for Colorado as it was clear the Buffaloes weren’t themselves after battling Utah the day before. They were a step slow and Oregon definitely took advantage. They shot just 31 percent for the game on 18-of-58 from the field and just 5-of-25 from three-point range. Mya Hollingshed led Colorado with 20 points.
Now the competition will ramp up as Oregon will now face 4-seed UCLA, who defeated Cal 77-74. The Ducks swept the Bruins in the regular season and defeating a team three times in the same season is difficult, especially a team of the caliber of UCLA.
Tip-off is scheduled for 6 pm on the Pac-12 Network.
~ Don Smalley