Despite shooting 49 percent from the field on Sunday night, No. 16 Stanford women’s basketball was unable to contain No. 6 Oregon as the Ducks ran away with the 77-57 win to capture their first-ever Pac-12 championship.
Sophomore Sabrina Ionescu went off for Oregon and put the team on her back, as she finished with a career-high 36 points on 14-24 shooting. The tournament’s most outstanding player did it all for the Ducks on offense and on defense, as she also pressured the Stanford guards all night long forcing Stanford turnovers. Ionescu’s 36 points breaks Stanford’s Candice Wiggins record for scoring in a Pac-12 championship game.
“I want to congratulate Oregon,” Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer said. “I thought they played a great game tonight. [Ionescu] had a fantastic game. Really, she was unguardable.”
Down 31-24 at halftime, Stanford attempted to catch the Ducks by going to who they know best. Freshman Kiana Williams, who almost had a career night against Arizona State University on Saturday, was perfect from the field on Sunday as she scored three treys from distance for 11 total points.
Williams was named to the All-Tournament team after the game.
Junior Alanna Smith was also trying to get going inside, and finished with 17 points, but the Australia-native had seven turnovers on the night. Freshman Maya Dodson also stepped in with some solid minutes, grabbing two offensive boards, scoring five points and forcing a foul in the third quarter.
“It was great to get Maya Dodson some good minutes out there. I thought she did a good job for us,” VanDerveer said.
Stanford got going early in the first, as it looked like Brittany McPhee was back to her real self after a couple of quiet games. Seven minutes into the game, the senior had ten points, equaling her total from the past two tournament games. Stanford hit six of its first seven shot attempts to take a seven point lead at 13-6. From there, Oregon locked in and did not let the Cardinal get hot.
In the second frame, Oregon forced seven turnovers from the Cardinal, limiting the team to only seven field goals and seven points in the period. In the meantime, Ionescu put up 17 points, which was at some point enough to match Stanford’s total.
“We got off to kind of a tough start, but once we got our legs underneath us, I thought defensively we were on point,” Oregon head coach Kelly Graves said. “All three games in the tournament I thought defensively we were terrific. The energy was great.”
The Cardinal were also forcing turnovers on defense, but weren’t capitalizing the other way. Stanford only had 13 points off turnovers while the Ducks had 24 on the night. Moreover, Oregon was crashing the boards, collecting 30 boards, including 15 on offense. That turned into 19 second chance points for the Ducks, while Stanford only had nine points off of 11 offensive rebounds.
Running behind for most of the game, the Cardinal ran into Oregon’s rock-solid defense. The Ducks were limiting the Cardinal on their end of the floor, and Stanford wasn’t able to move the basketball like they did in previous games.
Despite the Cardinal finding somewhat of a rhythm late in the game, Oregon’s three-point shooting down the other end drowned Stanford. Quiet at first from beyond the arc, the Ducks finished with 11 makes from deep, including several from well beyond the arc. This breaks a championship game record previously held by Stanford when the team scored nine triple against UCLA in 2006.
“They have a lot of balance,” VanDerveer said. “They go inside, they go outside. They had five different people hit threes. So it was a tough night.”
“Looking forward, I think this type of game can be very motivating and encouraging to people to really get in the gym and work harder,” VanDerveer said. “But I think it boiled down to we turned it over too much. We didn’t do a good job rebounding.”
Stanford now has to wait until March 12, or selection Monday, to find out what the rest of the season will look like. The Cardinal hope to be a four-seed in one of the regions, which would give them the right to host the first two rounds of the “Big Dance.”