Ducks Race Past Jackrabbits, 95-56


EUGENE, Ore. – The Oregon women’s basketball team used suffocating defense and lights-out shooting to blow past South Dakota State, 95-56, in a rematch of last season’s Sweet Sixteen showdown on Sunday afternoon in front of 9,560 fans in Matthew Knight Arena.

The No. 3 Ducks (7-1) came out with terrific defensive energy from the opening tip, recording six steals and four blocked shots while forcing the Jackrabbits into 13 total turnovers, including 10 in the first half.

“That was the key,” head coach Kelly Graves said of the defensive intensity. “South Dakota State, if you watch them play, there’s a reason nobody ever wants to play them because they are so fundamentally sound and skilled.”

Oregon made a defensive change and went to a three-quarter-court press for the first time this season, picking up the Jackrabbits earlier in the shot clock and pressuring them into contested passes. The Ducks were flying around all afternoon, jumping into passing lanes and running out of bounds to keep plays alive.

“We worked on it all week, “Graves said of the press, “it’s actually something we wanted to do but haven’t really had the opportunity to do it with a confidence in it. We made that a commitment this week and got them out of sync. If we defend like that, we are going to be difficult to beat.”

Offensively, the Ducks went shot a blistering 58.3 percent (14-of-24) from beyond the arc on Sunday after struggling from deep last week in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Five players finished with double-figure points for the first time this season, including a game-high 22 from Ruthy Hebard and a season-high 17 from freshman Holly Winterburn on 5-of-7 shooting from three-point range.

How it Happened: The Ducks used a 9-0 run to take a 13-3 lead through the first four-plus minutes, with Hebard getting a pair of lay-ins down low before back-to-back threes by Erin Boley and Satou Sabally. South Dakota State (5-4) got within 13-7 with 4:05 left in the first, but Oregon finished the frame on a 10-2 run to take a 14-point lead into the second quarter.

Six different Ducks had at least three points through the first period, and Oregon’s defense forced six SDSU turnovers with three steals while holding the Jackrabbits to just 4-of-13 shooting from the floor.

Oregon went 6-of-10 from three-point range in the second quarter to push its lead to 45-24 at the half, including a trio of triples from Boley and two from Winterburn. The Ducks led 31-16 when those two went back-to-back from beyond the arc, and another one from Boley gave Oregon its biggest lead up to that point at 25 with 2:40 left in the half.
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Hebard dominated down low for much of the third quarter, scoring 12 of Oregon’s 28 points on 6-of-8 shooting. Sabally scored five quick points out of halftime to get things going, and a Hebard lay-in made it a 31-point lead at the media timeout. Another triple by Winterburn pushed Oregon’s lead to 38 with 1:48 left, and freshman Jaz Shelley got a lay-in to go at the buzzer to make it 73-38 going to the fourth.

Sabally scored eight points, including six free throws, in the final quarter to lead the way, with Winterburn adding five more points in the most impressive showing of her young career. The freshman from Northampton, England, drilled her fifth triple of the night with 24 seconds remaining to give the Ducks their biggest lead of the day at the final margin of 95-56.

“I just felt like I was taking the right shots,” said Winterburn. “We shoot everyday so when we are in rhythm – like KG says, if it’s a rhythm shot it doesn’t matter where the defense is, just take it, and they went in today.”

Who Stood Out: Hebard led the Ducks in scoring for the fourth time this season while adding five rebounds, and Winterburn became the ninth different player to score in double figures this year. Sabally added 16 points, including 13 in the second half, to go with eight rebounds, and both Boley and Sabrina Ionescu finished with 12. Ionescu also had 11 assists and seven rebounds while coming up a little shy of her 20th career triple-double. Lydia Giomi contributed eight points off the bench, Shelley had five and Minyon Moore dished out seven assists.

2-for-1 for Ionescu: Ionescu continued her takeover of the Oregon record books on Sunday, putting her name at the top of two more all-time lists. With 12 points, Ionescu notched her 109th career double-figure scoring games to take sole possession of the No. 1 spot in Oregon history, previously held by Allison Lang (1980-84). The senior superstar also hit a pair of three-pointers to become the program’s all-time leader with 285 in her career, passing former teammate Lexi Bando (2014-18).

Notable: Hebard recorded the 102nd double-figure scoring game of her career to take sole possession of the No. 3 spot on the Oregon all-time list … Sabally made a pair of three-pointers and is now No. 10 in Oregon history with 145 in her career … 14 made threes are the second-most for the Ducks this season while 24 attempts are the lowest on the year … The Ducks won by 30-plus points for the fifth time in eight games this season … Oregon now has a 3-2 lead in the all-time series over South Dakota State, having won each of the last three.

Up Next: The Ducks will fly South this weekend to take on Long Beach State on Saturday at 1 p.m. PT before returning home to host Kansas State on Monday, Dec. 16, at 11 a.m. in MKA.