Ionescu’s triple-double leads No. 9 Oregon past Mississippi
EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — The crowd’s roar with 3 seconds left in the third quarter reinforced what Oregon’s Sabrina Ionescu already knew.
With her 10th rebound in her 44th game as a Duck, she’d just joined an exclusive club.
Ionescu tied an NCAA record with her seventh career triple-double, and No. 9 Oregon beat Mississippi 90-46 on Sunday.
“Just another day,” she said. “It doesn’t mean too much to me. I’m just happy that we won.
“As long as we’re winning, records don’t really matter. That’s what’s really important to me.”
Ionescu, a sophomore guard, had 21 points, 14 assists and 11 rebounds for her third triple-double this season. She broke the Pac-12 career mark of six by Stanford’s Nicole Powell, a former Oregon assistant under coach Kelly Graves.
“Tonight, you could tell there was a little twinkle in her eye right from the get-go,” Graves said of Ionescu. “She had something to prove and went out and did it.”
Ruthy Hebard had 16 points and 11 rebounds for the Ducks (9-2), who had all five starters score in double figures. Satou Sabally added 12 points, and Lexi Bando and Maite Cazorla had 10 each.
Barbara Johnson led Ole Miss (9-2) with 11 points, and Alissa Alston had 10. The Rebels’ scoring leader, junior Madinah Muhammad, had two points, 18 below her average.
Oregon avenged an 83-67 road loss to Ole Miss last season by dominating inside with a 51-29 margin in rebounds and a 58-18 edge in points in the paint. The Ducks struggled from 3-point range (5 of 23) but shot 38 of 76 for 50 percent overall.
Ionescu played only seven minutes in last year’s loss to the Rebels after breaking her thumb the previous day in practice. That memory served her well as she tied the triple-double mark set by Penn State’s Suzie McConnell in 1988 and matched by Louella Tomlinson of Saint Mary’s in 2011.
“I think that was fuel to the fire there,” Ionescu said, “and I definitely wanted to come out aggressive and hard, and our team did that tonight.
“We came out hard and punched them in the throat from the beginning, and that helped us throughout the whole game.”
The Ducks held Ole Miss to six points in the second quarter and 11 each in the last two periods. The Rebels shot 13 of 53 (24.5 percent), had 17 turnovers and didn’t score a fast-break point.
Graves was particularly pleased coming off a loss at No. 5 Mississippi State four days earlier.
“At Mississippi State, defensively we were out of sorts,” he said. “We didn’t play hard, we weren’t physically tough, we weren’t engaged and we didn’t communicate very well.
“Today, we did all of the above.”
Oregon rebounded from its second loss to a top-5 team by beating its second of three consecutive Southeastern Conference foes. The Ducks lost at then-No. 5 Louisville in the preseason WNIT title game last month and fell at No. 5 Mississippi State 90-79 last Wednesday.
Mississippi’s 9-1 start was its best in 12 years. It has two games remaining before starting SEC play at Arkansas on Dec. 31. The Rebels finished 10th in the SEC last year and are picked 13th among 14 teams this season.
Oregon’s bounce-back performance against the Rebels could keep the Ducks in the top 10 after their loss at No. 5 Mississippi State. The two weeks at No. 9 matched Oregon’s all-time best.
STAT OF THE GAME
Ionescu’s 14 assists tied the school record that she matched three games ago. She came in fourth nationally at eight assists per game and is now up to 8.5.
HE SAID IT
Oregon’s crowd of 2,683 was able to chart Ionescu’s stat progress via the “hustle boards” hanging at each end of the arena.
“I think it’s neat, because they should celebrate it with her,” Graves said. “She’s sure a pleasure to watch. She does it every day in practice, too, so it’s not just when the lights go on. She’s our hardest worker.”
Mississippi: Finishes its two-game West Coast swing at Portland State on Tuesday night.
Oregon: Goes to Las Vegas for a rematch with No. 19 Texas A&M on Thursday as part of the Duel in the Desert. The Ducks beat the Aggies 83-68 in the preseason WNIT.