Oregon women’s basketball is different. It just is. Sabrina Ionescu is not of this world. The culture that has been built around the Duck women’s program is one of kind. Stanford found this out on Sunday night as the Ducks beat the Cardinal 89-56.
Coming into this Pac-12 Championship Game, it was widely acknowledged that Oregon by far had the best team with the best player. Stanford was almost an afterthought. Nobody expected them to pull the upset of Oregon. Cardinal fans would also readily admit that.
I rode the elevator down to the arena with a husband and wife that were Stanford alumni.
“I just want Stanford to make the Ducks sweat just a little bit.” The wife said.
That pretty much summed up many Stanford fans on Sunday night. It’s tough going to root your team on when deep down you know it’s fruitless.
Anything can happen, but with this Oregon team an upset was not going to happen.
Sabrina Ionescu is one of these generational type of players that come along very seldom. Ionescu is going to be the top draft pick in this upcoming WNBA Draft. She is someone who can be an inspirational figure for young girls. She is also going to leave her imprint on women’s basketball for sure. Her friendship with the late Kobe Bryant has made her realize that she can push women’s basketball to the next level.
Ionescu isn’t the only person that deserves credit for making this Oregon team a three time Pac-12 Conference Champion.
Oregon head coach, Kelly Graves, deserves much of the credit in developing this Duck program. Graves has a program where the chemistry between these young women is second to none. The Duck women play for each other, communicate, and everybody knows their role on the team. The buy-in of the Oregon women is absolute.
Teams follow their leaders. Oregon follow the lead of Coach Graves and Sabrina Ionescu.
On Sunday night it was the culmination of all the hard work the Oregon Duck women have put in this season so far.
Stanford lead 17-14 after the first quarter, but that was as good as it got for the Cardinal. From there Stanford did not shoot well at all. It was a struggle to get the ball in the basket. The Stanford women had scoring droughts of three or four minutes, couldn’t hit from the three point stripe, and turned the ball over to many times to beat a team like Oregon.
On the other side of the court the Ducks got everything going in the second quarter. Shots started falling in bunches. The Oregon defense started getting turnovers and converting those turnovers into points. When you combine those two things it was not a surprise that the Ducks had a commanding 43-26 lead at halftime.
It snowballed for Oregon in the second half of play. The Ducks showed everybody why they are huge threat to win the National Championship. Oregon got hot from three and late in the fourth quarter the Ducks were shooting 56% from three point land.
The lead for Oregon ballooned to 36 at the 5:24 mark in the fourth quarter and the coronation of Oregon was only a formality at that point.
Head coach Kelly Graves of Oregon said it best at the end of the game.
“We wanted to leave no doubt.” Graves said.
Mission accomplished Coach Graves.