Playing for the first time in over week, No. 3 Oregon came into its matchup with visiting Long Beach State focused on defense. Over the previous six games, the Ducks have been nearly unstoppable on offense but defensively, the unit wasn’t where head coach Kelly Graves wanted them to be.
Sunday proved that the Ducks are on the right track to fixing their defensive woes.
Oregon held Long Beach State to 34.5-percernt shooting from the floor en route to a 110-48 victory. The Ducks are now 7-0 on the season while the 49ers drop to 1-7.
"I thought our defense was really on point, especially in that second quarter when we held them to four points," Graves said. "I just thought defensively we did a really good job tonight, and that led to some really good offense."
Erin Boley had her best game as a Duck, finishing with 24 points and six rebounds while Ruthy Hebard added 19 points and 14 rebounds.
The Ducks missed nine of their first 11 three-pointers to start the game but shot 11-of-18 the rest of the way. Maite Cazorla and Satou Sabally each finished with 18 points, combining to shoot 6-for-13 from beyond the arc.
Oregon got off to a good start on the offensive end, but so did Long Beach State in the first quarter — shooting 7-of-15 in the first quarter to trail just 24-16.
But the Ducks responded with a second quarter that not only saw the offense explode, the defense real came alive by getting active. Oregon outscored Long Beach State 26-4 in the quarter by getting into the passing lanes and forcing turnovers, allowing the athletic Ducks to get out in transition.
"Tonight was a huge step forward for us defensively," Sabrina Ionescu said. "This whole week of practice that's what we've been focusing on… getting in passing lanes, getting stops, using our length."
Oregon didn’t let up after the break, outscoring Long beach State 60-28. It was a good showing by the Ducks in the second half, never letting up against an inferior opponent and staying focused, even with all the distarctions going on around them.
“Sometimes these games are tough, because we're going into finals starting tomorrow,” Graves said. “I thought we came out prepared, we came out with focus, we came out with intensity and I thought we were focused throughout the game — as a coach, that pleases me."
Ionescu had another great game for the Ducks, finishing with 12 points, six rebounds and 17 assists, a program record — all while sitting out the final half of the fourth quarter.
"It was really impressive and she was hunting them, too… I thought that made the team better, because then the team knew to make sure they were cutting and being in the right position,” Graves said. "She's phenomenal, she truly is. If we were struggling to score, she'd try to get 30, that's just who she is. She does whatever we need, and tonight was a fun game for her."
Ionescu acknowledged the team hasn’t been shooting the ball very well the past few games, despite their record, so she went into tonight making sure to get her teammates involved.
"That was not what I woke up thinking — teammates make shots and we shot the ball really well, and that helped (me) get the assists,” Ionescu said. “I knew we needed people shooting the ball well and the last few games we haven't shot the ball like we usually do."
Oregon gets another week off before hitting the road for games at Michigan State and South Dakota State. The Ducks tipoff with the Spartans on Sunday, December 9 at 12 p.m. — the game will be broadcast on ESPN2.