Oregon’s dominance at Matthew Knight Arena continues in the post-season as the Ducks send themselves into the Sweet 16 with a 101-73 win over 10-seed Minnesota.
The 2-seeded Ducks will now travel up to Spokane to play either Ohio State or Central Michigan on Saturday.
This game was billed as a possible high-scoring affair, but Oregon lived up to their its part of the bargain while Minnesota did not. The Gophers led the Big Ten by scoring 85 points a game and they were doing their part early on. It was 22-16 just five minutes into the game.
But then Sabrina Ionescu and Ruthy Hebard got it going.
At the same time, those threes Minnesota was hitting early on suddenly were short. Oregon ended the half on a 16-0 run and kept the barrage of offense going in the third quarter to put the game out of reach.
The Ducks built a 73-43 lead on Lexi Bando’s last three-pointer at home in a storied career for the Eugene native.
Ionescu led the way with 29 points, nine assists and seven rebounds. She surely would have had her 11th career triple-double, but in a smart move, coach Kelly Graves sat his star player for the last eight minutes of the game.
But it wasn’t just Ionescu.
Hebard dominated the key with 22 points and 10 rebounds and Satou Sabally added 12 points, including the first seven points of the game to signal it was going to be a long night for the Golden Gophers.
Even when the bench came in for the final six minutes, the offense just kept going. The Ducks shot 61 percent from the field on 39-of-64 from the floor. They also made 11 of their 22 attempts from long range.
One knew Oregon was headed to the Sweet 16 when Ionescu sank a 25-footer at the buzzer and was fouled to end the first half.
That initial 20 minutes featured everything a Duck fan wanted to see. Ionescu dominated, Hebard was unstoppable from the inside and Bando was nailing threes.
Other than that, the half went Minnesota’s way.
Ionescu went into the locker room with at stat line that would have been great for most players. But she’s not like most players.
The sophomore lit the Gophers up for 22 points, seven assists and five boards in the first 20 minutes of action.
Ionescu was just one part of an offensive attack that buried Minnesota. For some reason, the Gophers thought they could guard Hebard with just one defender and that turned out to be a mistake as she scored 12 points.
Oregon shot 66 percent from the field (21-of-32) in the first half. Minnesota managed to hit seven three-pointers, which was the only reason the Gophers were in shouting distance at the break. Pitts was responsible for four of those treys as she scored 17 points on the night.
Carlie Wagner led the Gophers with 20 points.
~ Don Smalley