No. 2 seed Oregon advances with 101-73 win over Minnesota
EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — At the halftime buzzer against Minnesota, Sabrina Ionescu nailed an improbable 3-pointer and then fell to the court. A moment later, she was clearly angry with herself for missing the free throw that went with it.
The moment was typical of Oregon's sophomore guard.
Ionescu had 29 points, nine assists and seven rebounds and the second-seeded Oregon Ducks advanced to the Sweet 16 with a 101-73 victory over the No. 10 Golden Gophers in the second round of the women's NCAA Tournament on Sunday night.
"She's dialed in," Ducks coach Kelly Graves said. "She's rock solid."
It was the 11th straight victory for the Ducks, who are headed to the round of 16 for the second straight season. Last year they went to the Elite Eight for the first time in program history.
Ionescu was just short of her second straight and 11th career triple-double. A sophomore, Ionescu holds the career NCAA record for triple-doubles.
Fellow sophomore Ruthy Hebard finished with 22 points and 10 rebounds for the Ducks, who led by as many as 34 points. Ionescu went to the bench with 8:31 left in the game and Oregon up by 30.
"The ball went through the basket today for me," Ionescu said. "It was just kind of in the flow of the game. People were getting me the ball in position for me to score, which was nice to see, and then Ruthy played well inside. I was getting her the ball and vice versa."
With her fourth assist of the game, Ionescu broke the Pac-12 single-season record of 278, set by Arizona's Brenda Pantoja in the 1995-96 season. She finished the game with 284.
Carlie Wagner led the Golden Gophers with 20 points. Oregon's 101 points were the most Minnesota had given up all year.
"Obviously a tough moment for our team," Minnesota coach Marlene Stollings said. "I'm really proud of them. They had more wins than they had in 13 years in our program, and made tremendous progress. So I couldn't be more proud of them for that. Oregon is a tremendous team. I would be shocked if they're not playing in the Final Four and playing for a championship."
The Ducks, who won both the Pac-12 regular season and tournament titles, were coming off an 88-45 first-round victory over No. 15 seed Seattle. Ionescu finished with 19 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds in that game.
Minnesota beat No. 7 Green Bay 89-77 on Friday. Kenisha Bell had 24 of her 26 points in the second half as the Gophers rallied from 10 points down at halftime.
Minnesota came into the tournament with an average of 85.2 points per game to lead the Big Ten and ranked third nationally — behind only UConn and Baylor. The Golden Gophers were making their first tournament appearance since 2015.
Oregon jumped to a 21-13 lead after Ionescu's corner 3-pointer. She got a layup as the shot clock expired and a free throw to put the Ducks up 30-22 at the end of the first quarter. Ionescu led all scorers in the period with 13 points.
Hebard's layup gave the Ducks a 41-31 lead. Ionescu fell to the floor but somehow nailed a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the Ducks a 51-36 lead at the break. She went into the half with 22 points.
But even after the game she was mad about that free throw.
"I knew it was a foul, but it wasn't an and-one because I missed the free throw, so I'm still bummed about that," she said.
Lexi Bando's 3-pointer pushed the Ducks' lead to 39-62 in the third quarter.
Ionescu's 29 points were a record for an Oregon player in an NCAA Tournament game.
"She's special," Stollings said about Ionescu. "She's the kind of player that doesn't come along very often in a coaching career."
Minnesota: The Golden Gophers have faced the Ducks just once before, in the 1979 WNIT. Oregon won, 85-74. ... Minnesota's best finish in the tournament was a run to the Final Four in 2004. ... Minnesota's 24 wins this season were its most in 13 seasons.
Oregon: The Ducks pushed their total wins this season to 32, a record for coach Kelly Graves. ... Oregon was making its second straight tournament appearance and 14th overall. ... Bando played her last game at Matthew Knight Arena. ... Oregon governor Kate Brown was at the game.
LOOKING AHEAD: "I think it's pretty awesome and I think our coaches saw that we were going to be able to accomplish this when they recruited us, but now it's another two-game tournament that we're going to in Spokane," Ionescu said. "We're going to play like we've been playing and hopefully get two wins there."
The Ducks will travel north to Spokane to face the winner of Monday's game between third-seeded Ohio State and No. 11 Central Michigan in Columbus, Ohio. The Buckeyes beat George Washington 87-45 on Saturday, after Central Michigan upset No. 6 LSU 78-69.