Oregon entered Wednesday's game still without starter Te-Hina Paopao and guard Jaz Shelley. Head Coach Kelly Graves has had to make adjustments since the loss to Oregon State that bounced his team out of the Pac-12 tournament.
One of those adjustments was inserting Sedona Prince into the starting lineup after coming off the bench most of the season. She came to Eugene banged up and battled ankle and knee injuries and Graves eased her into a larger role as the season progressed.
You could tell she was ready to go when she threw down a dunk in pre-game warmups.
The Texas transfer was in peak form against Georgia, finishing with 22 points, 5 rebounds, 4 blocks and 2 steals.
Prince says the win over Georgia to advance to the Sweet 16 sends a message to the many people who have doubted the Ducks.
"We wanted to show today that we are not the team to be messed with," she said. "We wanted to come out and show that we're gonna play harder than you and we're gonna want it more than you."
The 6-foot-7 forward has been the center of attention in the NCAA women's tournament after she called out the NCAA for disparities in weight room equipment and meals in the men's and women's tournaments. She hopes having the spotlight on her can attract more viewers to the sport.
"I hope they see that women's basketball is not boring, it's fun, it's exciting. There's so many fundamentals, it's such a different game. We wanted to show that we're fun to watch," Prince said.
Prince worked in tandem with the 6-foot-5 Nyara Sabally to take over late in the game and elevate the team for a win. She never had any doubt.
"Nyara and I talked before the 4th quarter, and we were like 'We're gonna go to the Sweet 16 on our first year.' We came out and she dominated. It was a collective effort of 'we're gonna get this, we're gonna win, and we're gonna go to the Sweet 16.' "
The opportunity to play in the tournament means a lot to Prince, who was forced to sit out last season after transferring from Texas, where she broke her leg as a freshman and never set foot on the court.
She's been one of the building blocks on this year's young team and didn't know what to expect after last season, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic complicating things.
"I honestly didn't know what this season was going to be, especially after last year," she said. "In COVID and a brand new team we had no idea what we were gonna expect. I'm unbelievably proud of these girls, they all wanted this."
Wednesday's win marked another big achievement for Oregon, which now boasts both a women's and men's team in the Sweet 16.
"We were really excited when they got that win. It just shows how good of a school Oregon is at basketball. I'm really excited to get to rep our Ducks and hopefully come back to Eugene with some championships."
Next up for Prince and her team is a matchup with the No. 2 Louisville Cardinals. That game will be played on Sunday March 28 at 4 p.m. PST on ESPN.
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