No. 2 Oregon women end 2-game skid, beat USC 96-78
EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — Oregon regained its footing with the return of its shooting touch and junior forward Ruthy Hebard.
Things felt so routine for the Ducks, in fact, that another marquee effort by Sabrina Ionescu barely caused a ripple.
Ionescu recorded her NCAA-record 17th triple-double, Erin Boley had a career-high 32 points and No. 2 Oregon snapped a two-game losing streak by racing past Southern California 96-78 on Sunday.
“I think she played a lot more free tonight and was able to do a little bit of everything,” Oregon coach Kelly Graves said. “Sabrina was really focused and motivated today.”
Ionescu finished with 13 points, 12 rebounds and 13 assists to lead the Ducks (25-3, 14-2 Pac-12). It also was her seventh triple-double of the season, another NCAA record.
“It just felt normal,” said Ionescu, who didn’t field a single question about her stat line. “It felt like a regular game for us and we weren’t lacking anything. Ruthy came in and had a monster game inside.”
Hebard, playing with a brace on her right leg, added 13 points and eight rebounds in 16 minutes off the bench after missing one game with a knee injury. Hebard was hurt during the second quarter of Monday’s loss at Oregon State, and she wore the brace on the bench during Friday night’s 74-69 loss to UCLA.
The 6-foot-4 Hebard was cleared to play but yielded the starting honor to Oti Gildon in her final regular-season home game with fellow senior Maite Cazorla. Hebard started the second half as the Ducks started to pull away.
“I thought it was a huge psychological boost,” Graves said of Hebard’s return. “She is such an important player, and I think just the most dominating player in the conference.
“I think that gave everybody a lift. I could tell we were a little down (after the UCLA loss) and maybe feeling sorry for ourselves just a little bit when she wasn’t in there. She’s a very important part of what we do.”
Boley had 22 points in the second half on 6-of-8 shooting from 3-point range. The sophomore transfer from Notre Dame was 11 of 18 overall and 8 of 11 from the arc.
“It’s always nice to have a good feel, especially after the loss on Friday,” Boley said. “We had a good rhythm today.”
During the decisive third quarter, Boley had 13 points on three 3s, a short bank shot and two free throws as she showed more than just her spot-up ability from long range.
“When she’s having a night like that, it changes who we are and we become very difficult to defend,” Graves said. “And she doesn’t need any time to get that thing off. It’s incredible how quick her release is.”
Oregon broke open the game with a 14-5 run to end the third quarter, capped by Ionescu’s 10th assist for the triple-double on Taylor Chavez’s 3-pointer for a 71-53 lead. In the second half, the Ducks shot 62.5 percent, made 10 of 13 from the arc and scored 56 points.
Mariya Moore had 30 points to lead the Trojans (15-12, 5-11). Aliyah Mazyck added 19 and Minyon Moore scored 11.
USC finished the first quarter up 27-25 behind Mariya Moore’s 11 points, but the Trojans missed their first 10 shots of the second period as Oregon opened a 38-28 lead. USC then closed out the half on an 8-2 run to trail 40-36.
USC finished the month 4-5 with three consecutive losses to Top 10 teams. The Trojans close out their Pac-12 schedule at home against Colorado and Utah, against whom they split two weeks ago.
Oregon stopped its skid with big performances from its two stars and 3-point sharpshooter Boley. Two weeks after a 40-point dismantling of Stanford on the road, the Ducks now need a strong Pac-12 finish not only to claim a second straight regular-season title but to keep the NCAA selection committee impressed.
Oregon’s all-time high No. 2 ranking will be a memory come Monday after two losses, though the Ducks’ bigger concern may be holding onto their projected No. 1 seed in the West Region of the NCAA tournament.
STAT OF THE GAME
After shooting 11 of 48 from 3-point range (22.9 percent) in its last two games, Oregon went 14 of 24 (58.3 percent) against the Trojans for its second-best performance of the season from deep. “It’s kind of how basketball works,” Ionescu said. “Sometimes you can shoot lights out, and sometimes the ball doesn’t want to go through the net.”
Oregon needs one win in its final two games to clinch at least a share of a second straight Pac-12 regular-season title, as well as the top seed for the conference tournament. With Hebard back, Graves said the Ducks are up to the task.
“They’re college pros,” he said. “They prepare the right way, they play the right way, they believe in themselves. We had some adversity and we’d love to have that (UCLA) game back, but we’re just going to stay focused for another weekend and finish this thing out.”
USC: Hosts Colorado on Friday night.
Oregon: At Arizona on Friday night.