When Oregon and UCLA met two weeks ago, the Bruins came into Matthew Knight Arena as the underdog and walked away with the 74-69 win. The Ducks, who were without forward Ruthy Hebard because of a bone bruise, were decimated downlow as their starting frontcourt was outscored 37-14 and outrebounded 19-10.
When these two met again in the Pac-12 semifinals last night, with Hebard healthy and playing, the result was much different. Led by Hebard’s double-double of 28 points and 12 rebounds, No. 1 Oregon outlasted No. 4 UCLA 88-83 in overtime to advance to Sunday’s Pac-12 tournament championship against No. 2 Stanford.
“We’re obviously excited and happy that we get to play again and play tomorrow for another championship,” Oregon head coach Kelly Graves said after the win. “But really proud of our team. I thought tonight we really showed our championship mettle, making plays when they really needed to… I thought we played a good basketball game.”
Hebard was the difference for the Ducks, as her size downlow made a noticeable difference defensively (three steals) while her offensive game continued to be dominant, finishing 13-of-18 from the field.
“She’s been huge, especially offensively, but defensively, getting the rebounds, make it tough for the other team,” Oregon’s Maite Cazorla said of Hebard. “So, she’s been a huge impact.”
Hebard played her best when the Ducks needed her most, scoring 14 points in the fourth quarter and overtime. Her layup with 26 seconds left in regulation gave the Ducks an a one-point lead before UCLA’s Michaela Onyenwere hit 1-of-2 from the foul line to send the game into the extra period.
Despite leading for most of the game, Oregon found itself down one in the final minute when UCLA’s Japrece Dean drilled her fifth three-pointer of the game. The Ducks responded when Hebard was able to get a switch, but she missed the wide-open layup. Satou Sabally, who didn’t have her best offensive game, got a steal before the Ducks went to Hebard again for the bucket.
“I thought defensively she was really good tonight, and like you said, made some really important plays… it won’t get noticed,” Graves said of Sabally. “They’ll look at the box score, like you said, and those plays will get unnoticed. But we know what she did and her value to the team.”
Overtime began with a Sabally layup sandwiched in between two Onyenwere scores to put the Ducks in and early deficit. After Oregon got a stop on the defensive end and was bringing the ball up court, Bruins head coach Cori Close received a technical foul when she wasn’t pleased that a foul wasn’t called on the previous possession.
The Ducks made UCLA pay as Sabrina Ionescu knocked down the two technical free throws, and then Hebard’s layup on the Sabally assist made it a four-point swing for the lead.
Sabally’s layup gave Oregon an 85-83 lead in the final minute and after Oregon got two defensive stops, Sabally went 1-of-2 from the free throw line. The Bruins had one final chance but Kennedy Burke dribbled the ball out of bounds before Ionescu’s two free throws iced the game.
The Ducks started the game off well, jumping out to a 15-5 lead early on before UCLA rallied to trail 25-21 after one and 36-30 at the break.
The Bruins appeared to have the momentum after three quarters when Burke’s free throws cut Oregon’s lead to 53-52 but little-used Morgan Yaegar drilled a three-pointer at the buzzer to extend the lead.
“We have some confidence in Morgan, and she did it tonight… it was really great to see,” Graves said. “She didn’t hesitate and she was confident and certainly capable.”
Ionescu finished with a double-double of 18 points, 12 rebounds and six assists, but shot just 4-for-19 from the field. Cazorla finished with 11 points and five assists while Erin Boley added 13 points.
Sabally still finished with nine points, seven assists and five rebounds and added two charges and that huge steal in regulation.
Burke led UCLA with 27 points and 10 rebounds, Dean added 22 points, seven assists and seven rebounds while Onyenwere finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds.
Tipoff for the championship game is at 5 p.m. and will air on ESPN2.