It’s safe to say that Oregon has found its groove, again.
After losing two games in a row a few weeks ago, the Ducks have now won two straight — with Friday’s 83-54 victory over Arizona serving as the biggest win of the season. With the win, Oregon has clinched a share of the Pac-12 regular season championship and earned the No. 1 seed in next week’s conference tournament.
"We don't want to share," Oregon head coach Kelly Graves said of the regular season title. "We want to win it outright… I think we can do it… that's how this team is driven."
The game was close through three quarters, as Oregon took a 64-54 lead into the fourth. But instead of their vaunting offense leading them to the win, the Ducks defense stepped up swarmed the Wildcats, holding them scoreless in the frame.
"That was a surprise until I looked at the box score; I thought it was in the wrong column," Graves said. "But that's the kind of competitors we have."
Sabrina Ionescu led the Ducks with 22 points, knocking down six three-pointers, while dishing out eight assists and grabbing five rebounds. It was the typical performance you come to expect from a player of Ionescu’s status, a great rebound after she struggled during Oregon’s losing streak.
Satou Sabally added 16 points and 10 rebounds while Ruthy Hebard chipped in 16 points and nine rebounds, helping give the Ducks a distinct advantage in the paint — Oregon outscored the Wildcats 50-16 in the paint.
Arizona hung tough in the first quarter, leading 14-13 on a Sam Thomas (nine points) three-pointer with 3:14 remaining before the Ducks ended it on a 7-2 run, the final points coming on an Ionescu three-pointer.
The Ducks continued to push the tempo, beginning the second quarter on another 7-2 run, (14-4 overall) to push their lead to 27-18. The Wildcats refused to wilt, cutting the score to 29-28 with 4:26 to play before Oregon ended the half on a 11-4 run for the eight-point lead.
Oregon expanded its lead to 17 early in the third quarter following a Maite Cazorla (12 points, eight assists) three-pointer but Arizona fought back to cut the deficit at 10 entering the fourth.
"The difference between good teams and top-10 teams is they're always ready, you can never relax," Arizona head coach Adia Barnes said of the Ducks. "They make you pay."
Arizona was led by Aari McDonald’s 26 points, the only Wildcat in double-figures.
Oregon will look to clinch the outright conference title on Sunday when it faces No. 21 Arizona State in Tempe, Ariz. The Sun Devils are coming off a 66-54 victory over No. 9 Oregon State on Friday night. Tipoff is set for noon and will air on the Pac-12 Network.