With 2:06 remaining in the game, Oregon point guard Maite Cazorla brought the ball up with her team trailing 67-61 to visiting Syracuse. Up until the last few minutes, the Ducks had led the entire game but now, they were facing a deficit, a big one at that.
Instead of calling a timeout, Oregon head coach Kelly Graves opted to let his team play it out, trusting his veteran squad to get the job done.
Graves was correct as the Ducks hit back-to-back-to-back three-pointers on consecutive possessions for a lead they would never relinquish as No. 3 Oregon defeated No. 18 Syracuse 75-73 on Saturday.
"These guys have won a lot of games," Graves said. "They know how to win… I trust these guys."
All-American Sabrina Ionescu lived up to her billing by scoring seven of Oregon’s final 14 points in the last two minutes, including the first two three-pointers that tied the game late — she finished with 26 points, 10 rebounds and six assists.
*"*I saw we went down six, and I just did everything I could to not lose that game," Ionescu said. "I knew it was time to hit some big-time shots."
“Sabrina is Sabrina… that’s what I told her walking over here tonight,” Graves said postgame. “She played like an all-American tonight, that’s what they do.”
Cazorla overcame a rough first half with multiple turnovers, finishing with 14 points and five assists, not turning the ball over after the break. She also went a perfect 4-for-4 form the free throw line in the last 30 seconds to clinch the game.
The drama in the end was setup when Syracuse went on a 10-0 run near the end of the fourth quarter. Gabrielle Cooper sunk back-to-back threes to help fuel the run before Ionescu and Cazorla took over.
"We're not the quickest team," Graves said. "We didn't do a great job with our interior defense and allowed them to get some put-backs and points in the paint... we'll learn — that's why you play a good team early like this."
Ruthy Hebard, still recovering from an illness, finished with 11 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks. Erin Boley, in her first home game as a Duck, had 13 points but shot just 5-of-19 from the field, including 3-of-12 from beyond the arc.
“I went in with the mindset to bring whatever I can to the lineup,” Boley said. “I just wanted to come in and contribute.”
The Ducks jumped out a quick start, taking a 20-10 lead at the end of the first quarter. Oregon looked very comfortable against Syracuse’s zone pressure early, finding the open player by making the extra pass.
Syracuse continued to fight, outscoring the Ducks 17-14 in both the second and third quarters to make it close in the end. As the pressure ramped up, Oregon began to struggle, and the defense lost itself a few times late.
But thanks to some clutch shooting, the Ducks survived their big first road test of the season. Oregon travels to face Utah State on Wednesday, November 14 at 6 p.m. The Ducks then return home to face Buffalo on Sunday, November 18 at 2 p.m.