Ducks Dominate UConn Capping Big Ducks Weekend

EUGENE —For the second time in three days the Oregon women’s basketball team knocked off a 2021 Final Four team Monday, as the Ducks followed up a dramatic overtime win over Arizona by blowing out Connecticut in Matthew Knight Arena, 72-59.

After allowing a 10-0 run by the Huskies to open the game, it was all Oregon. The Ducks used an 18-0 run from late in the first quarter to early into the second to go up 26-14, and they ultimately led by as much as 24, at 67-43 early in the fourth.

As of Monday, Oregon has now faced all four of last season’s Final Four teams from the 2021 NCAA Tournament. The Ducks lost 80-63 while shorthanded to South Carolina in November, fought gamely in an 80-68 loss at Stanford on Jan. 7 but pulled to .500 against the quartet with wins at home over Arizona on Saturday and UConn on Monday.

“This was an enormous weekend,” UO coach Kelly Graves said. “This hopefully puts us back in the national discussion, as a team to be reckoned with.”

The UO women capped a weekend of wins over top-10 teams by Oregon basketball programs, as the men won at UCLA and USC and the women beat Arizona and UConn. Including the UO men’s win at Oregon State seven day earlier, the two programs combined to go 5-0 against 2021 Elite Eight teams in an eight-day span.

The Ducks struggled in the opening minutes to contend with UConn’s length, settling for three-pointers and missing four straight as the Huskies opened up a 10-0 lead. Sydney Parrish finally got a shot to drop and Nyara Sabally followed with another three to stabilize things for Oregon.

The Ducks trailed 14-8 late in the first quarter when momentum flipped. Te-Hina Paopao hit a three to make it a one-possession game, used a hesitation move to get to the rim as Oregon closed within one, then capped the quarter with two free throws to put the UO women ahead, 15-14.

Oregon’s run continued into the second quarter, fueled by defense. The Ducks forced five turnovers in UConn’s first six possessions of the second quarter, scoring another 11 straight points for an 18-0 run overall that made it 26-14. Sedona Prince hit jumpers on three straight possessions as the Ducks maintained a double-digit lead, 32-22, and a three-point play by Endyia Rogers capped the half with Oregon up 39-24.

In the meeting area of their locker room, the Ducks were excited but focused during halftime.

“We’re playing for each other,” Prince told her teammates. “Great job.”

“It’s so simple,” Maddie Scherr said of the formula Oregon had used to take a 15-point lead. “We’re getting stops.”

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And Sabally offered a warning: “They’re talented enough to come back.”

There was no letting up after halftime. After UConn closed within 10, Scherr hit a three-pointer for a 47-34 lead. Baskets on consecutive possessions by Prince, Sabally and Rogers prompted a UConn timeout at 53-36, and a three-pointer from Ahlise Hurst gave Oregon a 62-39 lead late in the third quarter.

Hurst hit another three early in the fourth quarter for what ended up being Oregon’s biggest lead, 67-43. At that point the Ducks had more than doubled up UConn after falling behind 10-0 early in the game; the Huskies managed to close the gap a bit in the final minutes, in which Sabally had to be helped off the floor but was back on the bench soon after, icing her knee.

Paopao followed up her career-high 24-point effort against Arizona with 22 points Monday, on 7-of-17 shooting with eight rebounds. Prince added 14 points, 12 of those coming in the second quarter as the Ducks took control. Sabally and Rogers scored seven each, and Rogers dished out six assists. Scherr added five points, four assists and four steals.

As was the case Saturday, the bench provided critical play as well. Kylee Watson had four points and six rebounds, and Chanaya Pinto again brought energy to both ends of the floor with two points, three rebounds and two steals in nine minutes. In Pinto’s 26 combined minutes against Arizona and UConn during the weekend, Oregon outscored the opposition by 24 points.

Despite their struggles while shorthanded early in the season, Oregon was executing offensively at a top-25 level. After the wins over Arizona and UConn, the Ducks stack up that well against the rest of the nation defensively, too.

“I thought we were really, really good, at both ends of the floor,” Graves said. “That’s about as good of defense as we’ve played. For a good portion of this game, and then add the last game — the last quarter, quarter and a half — we’ve really shown we can be a defensive team as well.”

Program alum Ruthy Hebard attended the game and sat courtside.

The Ducks play at Washington on Friday (7 p.m., Pac-12 Network)