Prior to tonight’s game, Oregon head coach Kelly Graves spoke to the media about how the Ducks had better be ready to play every night because they’re going to get every opposing team’s best game.
Those words rang true as No. 5 Oregon held off a great effort by Washington to win 84-71 in the Ducks’ conference opener.
“I loved our composure and toughness down the stretch, which is great” Graves said. “I thought we went in and out of some lapses both offensively and defensively throughout the game — we definitely have to make sure we clean that up.”
Erin Boley was sensational for the Ducks finishing with career-highs in points (28) and three-pointers made (8). She finished the game 10-of-14 from the field and 8-of-12 from beyond the arc.
“She’s a great young woman and a heck of a competitor — it was nice to see her step up,” Graves said of Boley. “It was coming to her and the kids were smart enough to feed the hot hand.”
“It feels great to just play in my first Pac-12 game — it felt to great to get our first Pac-12 win,” Boley said of her career night. “I attribute a lot of that by being surrounded by great players that are able to get me the ball.”
The Ducks (12-1, 1-0 Pac-12) entered the game as the top shooting, three-point shooting and free throw shooting team in the nation — but had one of those rare off nights. Oregon finished 30-of-71 (42.3-percent) from the field, 14-of-37 (37.8-percent) from beyond the arc and 10-for-15 (66.7-percent) from the charity stripe.
Sabrina Ionescu shot 7-of-20 from the field and 2-of-10 from beyond the arc, but finished with 20 points and 10 assists, with her biggest assist coming on her last one.
With the Ducks leading 77-69 in the final minute, Ionescu drove to her left before crossing over into the lane and finding Satou Sabally in the corner, who calmly nailed the three-pointer to put the game on ice.
It was the type of execution one has come to expect of this Oregon team as the Ducks have proved they don’t waver in crunch time.
“It was a good win against a team that was hungry,” Graves said. “They (Washington) played us well both times last year and we knew what we were going to get today.”
Oregon entered the fourth quarter leading 58-51, a much closer game than many expected. Led by the shooting of Amber Melgoza (23 points) and Alexis Griggsby (26 points, 6-of-11 from deep), the Huskies cut the deficit to 66-65 with 5:20 remaining.
“We weren’t that sharp… some nights you have that,” Graves said. “We had some pretty good looks and didn’t make them — defensively, I thought we let it affect us there.”
Much like he’s done all season, Graves refused to call timeout despite the 7-0 run, electing to trust his veteran-laden squad to figure it out.
And figure it out they did.
Ruthy Hebard (11 points, 11 rebounds) hit a layup on the assist from Ionescu, igniting a 14-4 run that ended with Sabally’s three-pointer.
Challenged by Graves and his coaching staff to elevate her game for conference play, Sabally responded with 19 points on 7-of-15 shooting (2-for-7 from deep) and a career-high 12 rebounds.
“Satou we’ve challenged at the start of Pac-12 to be more of a force on the boards — she certainty was,” Graves said of Sabally. “When she does that, we become an entirely different team.”
The first half was a shooting clinic put on by Boley and Griggsby.
Boley helped the Ducks jump out to a 23-14 lead as she scored 19 points in the frame, knocking down five three-pointers.
Griggsby got the Huskies back into the game in the second quarter, igniting an 18-0 run in which she scored 17 points by shooting 5-of-7 from beyond the arc — the Ducks led 38-37 at the half.
Washington (7-7, 0-2 Pac-12) scored the first four points of the third quarter, taking a 41-38 lead two minutes in.
It was the last lead the Huskies had as Oregon responded with a 17-0 run in the quarter. Maite Cazorla (6 points, 6 assists) started the run with a three-pointer, as all five starts scored in that span, giving the Ducks a 58-51 lead after three.
The Ducks return to action on Sunday when they host Washington State. Tipoff is set for 3 p.m. from Matthew Knight Arena.