Victory Is Sweet For UO Women
SAN ANTONIO — The path looks different but the destination is the same for the Oregon women's basketball team, which on Wednesday advanced to its fourth straight Sweet Sixteen with a second-round NCAA Tournament win over Georgia in the Alamodome, 57-50.
Relying on twin towers Sedona Prince and Nyara Sabally on offense, and relentless pressure on defense, these Ducks don't often resemble the high-scoring team from recent years led by Ruthy Hebard, Sabrina Ionescu and Satou Sabally. But Prince and Sabally combined for 37 points Wednesday and the UO women held Georgia to 35-percent shooting as the Ducks advanced to a Sweet Sixteen game Sunday (4 p.m., ESPN).
"This is a big win," UO coach Kelly Graves said. "Georgia is a heck of a team. And our Ducks did it. They came through."
— Oregon Women's Basketball (@OregonWBB) March 24, 2021
Prince drew national attention upon Oregon's arrival at the tournament for publicizing inequities in some of the amenities provided the women in comparison with the men's tournament. Having attracted so much attention, Prince said, she was "extremely nervous" for Monday's first-round win over South Dakota. But she was much more comfortable Wednesday.
"I came out in the first quarter and I didn't really have any nerves," said Prince, who led all scorers with 22 points. "I think that was just based on my teammates. I knew they trusted me 100 percent. So they gave me that confidence to make a play. I knew if I wanted to score I could, and it felt really good. It was a fun game."
How It Happened: The Ducks (15-8) looked to establish Prince from the start, going to her on the first two possessions of the game. She made her second attempt to tie the score, and Taylor Mikesell hit a three-pointer for a 5-2 lead. Two turnovers and four missed shots followed as Georgia rallied into the lead, with Prince ending the cold spell on an and-one for a 10-10 tie. That was Oregon's only field goal in the final 7:42 of the first period, however, as Georgia took a 12-10 lead.
The UO women entered a danger zone early in the second quarter, falling behind 16-10 and having yet to show much potential for enough offense to come back from a deep deficit. Fortunately it didn't get to that point as Erin Boley, Mikesell and then Boley again connected from three-point range, tying the game 19-19. Sabally scored to cap what ended up being an 11-2 run that gave the Ducks a 24-21 lead, and Sabally hit a three-pointer just before halftime, which saw the game tied, 27-27.
The third quarter had consistently been Oregon's least dominant of this season; the Ducks in aggregate outscored the opposition by at least 74 points in each of the other three quarters, but were a less dominant plus-48 in the third quarter entering Wednesday. They responded by holding an opponent to single digits in a quarter for the third time in this tournament, outscoring Georgia 13-6 in the period. Sabally and Prince had two buckets each in the quarter, which ended with Oregon up 40-33.
The Ducks needed all of that margin, as Georgia began the fourth with an 8-2 run to get within 42-41. Coming out of a timeout, Graves set up a baseline jumper for Prince that she nailed. Another Prince bucket made it 46-45 before a game-tying free throw from Georgia, and she scored yet again for a 48-46 lead, only to have Georgia tie it once more. That 48-48 tie came with 2:34 left in the game, but Georgia missed its final five field-goal attempts from that point on, while Sabally scored on three straight possessions and Mikesell tacked on three free throws to ice the victory.
"Nyara and I talked before the start of the fourth quarter and we were like, we're going to the Sweet Sixteen in our first year," Prince said. "We came out and she dominated, and also our teammates allowed us to get good post-ups and made good entry passes. It was just a collective effort."
Who Stood Out: Four Ducks provided all the team's offense, with Prince and Sabally combining for 37 points plus 14 rebounds down low, and Boley and Mikesell adding 20 points on 4-of-7 three-point shooting. Prince also blocked four shots, and Mikesell handed out four assists.
Freshman guard Maddie Scherr continued to do a little of everything, dishing out six assists while leading the Ducks with three steals and also blocking a shot. She didn't make her first career start until the Pac-12 Tournament but has been a key cog since.
"This is a big stage for a young freshman, and I thought she was terrific," Graves said. "She got us into our offense, she got the ball to the right people at the right time, and then defensively she had a huge impact on what we did tonight."
What It Means: When Prince transferred to Oregon for the 2019-20 season, she was rehabbing a lower leg injury while Sabally was recovering from knee surgery. They spent longs days together getting treatment, days Prince recalled postgame Wednesday with tears in her eyes.
"When I came here, we were both so broken," Prince said. "We didn't know if we were going to play basketball again. Watching where we've come and now leading this team to the Sweet Sixteen is incredible. And it feels good."
Notable: The Ducks played without Te-Hina Paopao and Jaz Shelley for the second time in this tournament. … Oregon and its opponent Sunday, Louisville, are two of six teams to make the Sweet Sixteen of the last four tournaments, along with Baylor, UConn, Stanford and South Carolina. … Oregon, Michigan and Baylor are the only three schools to make the Sweet Sixteen of both the men's and women's tournaments.
Up Next: The Ducks advance to a Sweet Sixteen matchup against Louisville on Sunday (4 p.m., ESPN).