Late Momentum Swing Sinks Ducks
LAS VEGAS — Oregon rallied into the lead midway through the fourth quarter Friday, but a critical sequence with less than 4 minutes left flipped the momentum as Utah eliminated the Ducks from the Pac-12 Tournament in the semifinals, 80-73.
Down 10 entering the fourth quarter at Michelob ULTRA Arena, the Ducks rallied to lead 66-65 on a basket by Nyara Sabally with 3:56 to go. But at the other end, Sabally picked up her fifth foul on a three-pointer, UO coach Kelly Graves received a technical foul and the Utes used the ensuing free throws to spark a 9-0 run and take command of the game.
"Disappointed, but this has been our season in a nutshell," Graves said. "We've been up and down; it's been a roller-coaster ride most of the year. But I did a terrible job tonight coaching, obviously lost my cool late."
Graves did clarify that he "didn't say anything" to the officiating crew when he was whistled for the technical.
How It Happened: The Ducks put together a scorching start, using a 14-0 run while taking a 25-14 lead after one quarter. But Utah fought back within 37-32 at halftime, then exploded for 23 points in the third quarter to lead by 10 entering the fourth.
Sedona Prince scored to open the fourth for the Ducks, and Te-Hina Paopao followed a miss by the Utes with a three-pointer to get Oregon within 55-50. The Ducks made it buckets on five straight possessions to open the quarter when Paopao hit a jumper, Endyia Rogers followed with a three-pointer and Paopao scored again to make it 61-57. With Utah up 63-57, Sydney Parrish hit a three-pointer fo make it a one-possession game. The Utes made two free throws but Rogers scored at the other end, missing an and-one that Sabally rebounded before making two free throws.
That four-point possession got Oregon within 65-64, and after forcing a turnover the Ducks got a go-ahead basket by Sabally. On the following possession, however, Sabally was called for a foul on a three-point attempt, and Graves received a technical foul. The Utes made 4-of-5 free throws, and the Ducks didn't score again until it was 74-68. The loss snapped a 13-game winning steak for Oregon over Utah.
Oregon trailed 7-2 early on before Prince and Sabally each scored two second-chance points to spark a 14-0 run that also included a Parrish three-pointer and a Rogers three-point play. Kylee Watson capped the run with two points in the paint, as the Ducks made use of the size in the post that figured to be a key to victory Friday.
It was 35-27 late in the second when the Utes hit a three-pointer. After Paopao set up Watson for another bucket, the Utes hit two free throws to get within 37-32 at halftime. The Pac-12's most prolific three-point shooting team finally got hot in the third, making four three-pointers during a 16-1 run to go from down 40-45 to up 51-41. The margin remained 10 entering the fourth, and though the Ducks were able to claw back into the lead, Utah regained momentum after the fouls on Sabally and Graves.
Who Stood Out: Paopao finished with 17 points plus four rebounds and four assists, and Rogers added 15 points. Sabally had her second double-double in two days with 12 points and 12 rebounds plus three blocks before fouling out, and Sedona Prince added 12 points with five rebounds.
Until Ahlise Hurst made a three-pointer for Oregon's final points of the night, the Ducks' only significant contribution off the bench was by Watson. In one of her most productive appearances of the season against a conference foe, Watson finished with six points and six rebounds Friday.
What It Means: The Ducks had hoped to secure home games in the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament with a strong showing this week, but probably will have to go on the road in the wake of Friday's loss.
"We've just got to come together as a team and play better basketball," Paopao said. "Today we didn't play the best basketball we can, and we've just got to move on to the next."
Up Next: The Ducks find out their NCAA Tournament destination on Selection Sunday, March 13 at 5 p.m.