Portland, OR – The Oregon women had an off-shooting night, but rode their defense to get past South Dakota State 63-53 in regional semifinal action in front of 11.324 mostly Duck fans at the Moda Center in Portland. Sabrina Ionescu set the tone for the Ducks, at one point diving over the scoring table for a loose ball. Ionescu didn’t quite get another triple-double but controlled the game and finished with 17 points, seven rebounds and 11 assists. Ruthy Hebard also added a double-double with 24 points and 14 rebounds while Satou Sabally added 14 points and nine rebounds. Macy Miller led the Jackrabbits with 21 points but shot an inefficient 6-of-18.
The win sends the Ducks into the regional final facing top-seeded Mississippi State for the right to head to the Final Four in Tampa. Oregon beat the Bulldogs 82-74 earlier this season at home. The Ducks will need to be more efficient offensively and keep Hebard out of foul trouble defending 6-7 Teaira McGowan to have a good chance of advancing.
Oregon’s defense was dominant as they held South Dakota State to 26.7 percent shooting on 75 total shots. The Jackrabbits shot only 20.8 percent (5-of-24) from deep. They grabbed 20 offensive rebounds but could only generate 14 second chance points from those opportunities. The length of Oregon’s Hebard and Sabally bothered South Dakota State’s smaller bigs throughout the game. They couldn’t seem to connect on anything inside with many attempts being either short or rolling off the rim. 6-2 Tagyn Larson (4 points) missed her first seven shots while 6-2 Myah Selland scored 13 points but on 6-of-17 shooting.
The Ducks’ offense wasn’t as efficient as normal. Their 63 points was their third lowest output of the season and they connected on only 4-of-20 three-point attempts. Erin Boley missed all seven of her field goal attempts, including five three-point shots, several of which were long from the corner. Hebard missed several attempts inside she normally makes and shot 8-of-15, comparing unfavorably to her 67.6 shooting percentage for the season. They only received two points of production from their bench.
The Jackrabbits never made a serious run at the Ducks in the second half. Oregon quickly raced out to a 16-point lead early in the second half and increased their lead to 19 points (47-28) on a Matie Cazorla three-pointer. The third quarter ended with Oregon up by 15 points. The Jackrabbits cut the lead to 12 points on several occasions in the fourth quarter but couldn’t get closer than that until a Miller lay-up with 10 seconds remaining.
Oregon pulled away to a nine-point (31-22) lead at the half. Both teams had trouble putting the ball in the hoop. The Jackrabbits had difficulty scoring inside against Oregon’s length. They shot only 8-of-39 (20.5 percent) in the half including 23.1 percent (3-of-13) on three-pointers. Oregon shot only 2-of-8 from deep but a respectable 43.3 percent (13-of-30) overall. Sabally led Oregon at the half with 11 points on 5-of-9 shooting. She also pulled down six rebounds. Ionescu made three mid-range jumpers in a row and finished with eight first half points to go along with five assists and five rebounds. Hebard added nine points and eight rebounds. The half was played cleanly with South Dakota State only committing one turnover against the Ducks’ four.
In the opening game, No. 1 seed Mississippi State dominated throughout and defeated Arizona State 76-53. 6-7 center Teaira McCowan scored 20 of her game-high 22 points in the second half and pulled down a game-high 13 rebounds. The Bulldogs led by seven points after the first quarter, by eight points at halftime and gradually pulled away for the decisive win. All five Mississippi State starters scored in double-figures with point guard Jazzmun Holmes adding 13 points and dishing out seven assists while committing zero turnovers. The Bulldogs out-rebounded the Sun Devils by 11 and committed only seven turnovers, nine fewer than Arizona State. The Sun Devils (22-11) were led with 16 points from Kianna Ibus, all in the second half. Ibus was limited for four minutes of action in the first half after committing two quick fouls.
This will be Oregon’s (32-4) third straight Elite Eight appearance. They lost to UConn and Notre Dame the past two years. “We’ve been thinking about this opportunity since our loss last year to Notre Dame.” Ionescu said. “We’re going to come out Sunday dialed in…and not let this opportunity slip away”. The game against Mississippi State (33-2) will tip off at 11am on Sunday.