SoCal Sweep Positions Ducks to Claim 3rd Straight Pac-12 Title

With a sweep of the SoCal schools, the Oregon women enter the home stretch of the 2019-20 regular season on a 12-game winning streak. Looking every bit the part of the pre-season favorite to win a national title, the Ducks dispatched the 7th– ranked UCLA Bruins 80-66 on Friday before steamrollering USC on Sunday 93-67.

Neither the Bruins nor the Trojans had an answer for Ruthy Hebard. In 36 minutes of play against UCLA the senior forward simply did whatever she wanted to the tune of 30 points and 17 rebounds – six off the offensive glass.

Sabrina Ionescu added 18 to go along with 8 assists and seven rebounds to help Oregon all but eliminate the Bruins as a challenger to the Ducks’ efforts to three-peat as Pac-12 champions.

Hebard sank 14 of 19 from the floor to lead the Ducks to a 55.2% shooting mark for the night and on Monday was named the Pac-12 Player of the Week.

Coach Kelly Graves takes a “do it until they stop you” philosophy to his offense and he has three to five gifted weapons at his disposal on any given night and it has been a recipe for growing success in each of the past three seasons.

It is on the defensive end this team has begun to carve out its identity and on more than one occasion Graves has pointed to transfer Minyon Moore as the embodiment of that additional wrinkle to the Oregon game plan.

That one-two punch of defense fueling the offense was apparent in the first quarter when the Ducks held UCLA to eight points on their way to a 48-28 halftime lead. Oregon pushed the advantage to as many as 26 points midway through the third quarter before UCLA staged a desperation rally that cut the margin to 10 with just over two minutes left in the game.

A pair of Ionescu free throws and Satou Sabally’s layup iced things for the Ducks and the Bruins would get no closer.

Two days later across town the story again was Hebard with 22 points and 10 rebounds though it was the re-emergence of Erin Boley’s three-point shot that stole the spotlight. After scuffling through most of the season with her shot, Boley found her stroke early and often at the Galen Center, scorching USC for 25 points on 9 for 14 from the floor while burying seven of her 14 shots from beyond the arc.

Sabally added 18 and tied Hebard for the team lead in rebounds while Ionescu dished out 13 assists and scored a dozen to give the Ducks four players in double figures.

USC scored the first seven points of the game but when Sabally converted an and one then hit a jumper to give the Ducks a 20-15 lead after one, the Ducks never looked back.

The Ducks hammered USC on the glass 38-23 and outshot the Trojans 56.5% to 44.3%.

With only four games remaining on the regular season schedule, the Ducks remain on the road to face California on Friday, February 21st beginning at 6:00 pm (Pac-12 Networks) before a Monday night heavyweight showdown with Stanford (6:00 pm, ESPN2).

With a third straight conference crown theirs for the taking with a sweep, the Ducks close out the regular season hosting Washington State (Friday, Feb 28th) and Washington (Sunday, March 1st).

~ Rick Morgan