No. 2 seed Oregon cruises 78-40 over No. 15 Portland St
EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — While Satou Sabally crashed the boards, Sabrina Ionescu provided a little comic relief.
Sabally had 21 points and a career-high 16 rebounds to help second-seeded Oregon to an easy 78-40 victory over No. 15 seed Portland State on Friday night in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.
Ionescu put the home crowd at Matthew Knight Arena on its feet with a stunning 3-pointer at the start of the second half and finished with 12 points and eight assists for the Ducks (30-4). Ruthy Hebard had 22 points and 12 rebounds.
Ionescu, the NCAA career triple-double leader, had her teammates cracking up in the final moments when she caught a ball that was mistakenly passed to her out of bounds on the bench — and she shot it. She was given a technical.
“That was just Sabrina being Sabrina,” Hebard laughed later, then shot a glance at coach Kelly Graves. “It was funny.”
Graves said: “Everybody can make one mistake. That was her one.”
Ashley Bolston had 19 points for the Vikings (25-8), making their first tournament appearance since 2010.
Oregon advances to play 10th-seeded Indiana (21-10) on Sunday. The Hoosiers won Friday’s earlier game over No. 7 seed Texas 69-65.
“We didn’t come to Oregon just to beat Texas. There’s more to do for this group,” Indiana coach Teri Moren vowed.
Oregon was coming off a 64-57 loss to Stanford in the Pac-12 tournament championship game. But that was back on March 10, and the Ducks had time to recover from some nagging injuries that caught up with them in Las Vegas.
The Vikings were coming off a thrilling 61-59 victory over Eastern Washington in the Big Sky tournament last Friday that earned them the automatic bid. Desirae Hansen drained a 12-foot jumper with 3.1 seconds remaining for the win. Portland State knocked top-seeded Idaho out in the semifinals.
The Vikings’ 25 wins this season were the most for the program since joining the Big Sky for the 1996-97 season. Portland State’s only other trip to the NCAA Tournament was in 2010.
“They’re just a really good team, so they just came out and played basketball,” Bolston said about the Ducks.
Oregon went to the Elite Eight for the second straight year last season but fell to eventual champion Notre Dame. Oregon is 6-2 in NCAA Tournament games under coach Kelly Graves.
Ionescu, the Pac-12 Player of the Year, went into Friday’s game averaging 18 points, 7.2 assists and seven rebounds a game. The junior is the NCAA career leader among men and women with 17 triple-doubles, including seven this season.
But it was the bench shot that had everyone talking on Friday.
“I should have just ran back and acted like a real quick sub, and they probably wouldn’t have known, but I airballed,” she laughed.
Portland State was surprisingly resilient at the start, staying within five points for much of the first quarter until the Ducks began to pull away.
Hebard’s layup gave Oregon a 26-15 lead early in the second quarter as the Ducks simply overpowered the Vikings.
Sabally collected 14 points and six rebounds in the first half as Oregon built a 43-23 lead by the break. Hebard wasn’t far off with 14 points and five rebounds.
“Honestly I just felt it,” Sabally said about the rebounds. “I wanted to be aggressive today, because it could be our last game. ... I just have to get used to it for the upcoming games and doing it right from the get-go.”
With those two finding ways to score, Ionescu had a quieter role. But she drew an ovation early in the third quarter when she drained a 3-pointer from some 35 feet out to beat the shot clock, then slipped and fell running back at midcourt. She was laughing as teammates helped her up.
“Pick your poison, because the one that went in, I tripped after it, so they’re both just kind of like bloopers,” Ionescu laughed. “I’ve gotten so many texts already, like ’Oh My Gosh, what we’re you doing‴”
The winner of Sunday’s game will head north for the round of 16 in Portland, Oregon.
Portland State: Montana is the only school to win a game in the NCAA Tournament, with three total victories. ... The Vikings had a four-game winning streak going into Friday night’s game. ... Bolston was the Big Sky tournament MVP.
Oregon: Rumors continue to swirl whether Ionescu will skip her senior season to turn professional at the end of this season. ... Graves agreed this week to a contract extension with the Ducks that keeps him in Eugene through the 2025-26 season. The three-year, $2.85 million extension is pending approval by Oregon’s Board of Trustees.
HOPE: Portland State coach Lynn Kennedy is in his fourth year of a rebuilding project that has taken the next step. The first season the Vikings won just four games, then 16, then 19 and now 25 and an NCAA Tournament berth.
“We’ve got tears in that locker room,” Kennedy said. “I think it made us hungrier now.”