No. 8 Tar Heels Overtake No. 18 Ducks
PORTLAND, Ore. — Facing its toughest test of the young season, the 18th-ranked Oregon Ducks dropped an 85-79 decision to the eighth-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels in the opening round of the Phil Knight Invitational at Chiles Center Thursday.
The Ducks, who suffered their first loss of the season, led 44-39 at halftime and opened the fourth quarter with an 11-2 run, creating a 66-58 advantage. The Tar Heels (4-1) immediately responded with a 14-3 burst to claim a 72-69 lead that they never relinquished.
"I'm disappointed that we lost, but I am more encouraged now than I was actually coming into the game," said head coach Kelly Graves. "I didn't quite know what to expect with this group, because we are so young and haven't been tested, but for the most part we played a really good game and did a lot of good things. I am proud of my team, I thought we played really hard.
"Unfortunately down the stretch, they were a little more tenacious and bigger and stronger. We didn't make the plays and they did, they deserved to win."
UNC's fourth-quarter run was capped by a four-point play by Eva Hodgson, who finished with a game-high 21 points on 5-of-7 shooting from beyond the arc.
Te-Hina Paopao led Oregon with 18 points, a season high, to go with four rebounds, two assists and two steals. Paopao led four Ducks in double figures, joined by Grace VanSlooten (17), Jennah Isai (15) and Endyia Rogers (10).
VanSlooten finished with her first career double-double, adding 11 rebounds. Phillipina Kyei matched VanSlooten's rebounding output while adding eight points.
Oregon committed a season-high 18 turnovers, five coming in the fourth quarter, that resulted in 17 Tar Heel points. Conversely, Oregon forced eight UNC turnovers that it converted into just four points.
The Ducks shot better than 50.0 percent for the third time this season (50.8 percent), but hit on just 7-of-25 3-point attempts (28.0 percent). Paopao accounted for three of her team's seven 3-pointers, all coming in the first half.
North Carolina, who reached the Sweet Sixteen in last year's NCAA Tournament, saw five players eclipse double figures, including 19 from Alyssa Ustby.
UO owned a 42-35 edge on the boards, but North Carolina went 16-for-23 from the free throw line while the Ducks were 6-for-14.
UO coach Kelly Graves on his team's performance…
"I thought at times tonight we played really good basketball. There were times tonight we played as good as I've ever had a team play here at the University of Oregon. We just didn't sustain it for 40 minutes, unfortunately, and had some lulls. But they played hard.
"I'm proud of them. We technically weren't perfect, we obviously had too many turnovers and didn't shoot it particularly well, but we did a lot of really good things. We went toe-to-toe with one of the best teams in the country. They've been there, done that, and we haven't."
Up Next: The Ducks face Michigan State in the third-place game of the Phil Knight Invitational at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Portland on Sunday (10 a.m., ESPN2).