The No. 1 ranked University of Oregon Ducks rallied from 11 down midway in the second quarter to knock off the USA Women’s National Team (9-1, 3-1) 93-86 in front of 11,530 fans on Saturday at Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene, Oregon. The USA entered the exhibition game owning an all-time 43-1 record versus NCAA teams having suffered its only previous loss on Nov. 7, 1999, to the University of Tennessee by a score of 65-64.
“Congratulations to the Oregon Ducks, and not just their basketball team, but the community who came out to support this team,” said USA lead coach Cheryl Reeve. “That’s exactly what we hoped to see. I know how much they appreciate the national team being here.
“For the game itself, obviously there were a lot of great players who were on the court today. You felt kind of a swing when all of a sudden Sabrina (Ionescu) hit nearly a half-court shot and (Satou) Sabally hit a deep 3 and all of a sudden, the momentum swung, and we couldn’t get it back from them.
Leading the Ducks to the victory were two players with heavy USA Basketball experience. Sabrina Ionescu, who finished with 30 points (10-20 FGs) and seven assists, has won gold with USA national teams at the Pan Am Games 3×3, U23, U17 and U16 competitions and has also represented the United States in the 3×3 World Cup. Ruthy Hebard, who has represented USA Basketball at the World Beach Games 3×3, Pan Am Games 3×3, U19s, U18s and 3×3 World Cup, finished with a double-double of 18 points and 11 rebounds. Additionally, 6-foot-4 Duck forward Satou Sabally from Berlin, Germany, added 25 points.
“Overall, the atmosphere was amazing,” said Sue Bird (Seattle Storm/Connecticut), USA co-captain and four-time Olympic gold medalist. “This is what we wanted on this college tour. It just goes to show that you’re never too old to learn some lessons. This time we had to learn it the hard way, but congratulations to Oregon for playing a great game. For us, hopefully we can learn some of these lessons and take it with us as we go to Argentina.”
The USA, behind red-hot 70.6 percent (12-17 FGs) shooting in the first quarter opened a 27-20 lead.
The red, white and blue lead grew to 11 points, 37-26, with 4:27 left in the second period after a score from Chelsea Gray (Los Angeles Sparks/Duke).
Oregon outscored the USA 12-5 over the second stanza’s final 4:27, still the USA retired to the locker room at halftime with a 42-38 lead.
Behind 20 points from Ionescu in the third period, Oregon outgunned the Americans 30-25 in the period and led 68-67 with 10 minutes to play.
Oregon, getting six points from Ionescu and five from Sabally, opened the final period with a 13-2 scoring run to grab control 81-69 with 6:25 to play.
“She’s obviously incredibly talented,” said Bird of Ionescu. “She’s rumored to be the No. 1 pick for a reason. My favorite part of her game right now is her competitive nature. She’s incredibly relentless. Even when you think you have her stopped; she keeps coming at you.”
The USA closed to within three, 87-84, following a basket by Napheesa Collier (Minnesota Lynx/Connecticut) with 1:00 to play. But Sabally answered with four consecutive points to up the Ducks advantage to 91-84 and seal the victory.
Nneka Ogwumike (Los Angeles Sparks/Stanford) led the USA with 19 points (8-9 FGs) and 14 rebounds, while Diana Taurasi(Phoenix Mercury/Connecticut) accounted for 17 points. Sylvia Fowles (Minnesota Lynx/Louisiana State), who was in foul trouble much of the game and fouled out with 2:47 remaining in the contest, contributed 11 points in 16 minutes of action, while Collier was credited with 10 points (5-7 FGs).
“Learning from a situation like this is sometimes a part of life,” said Ogwumike. “But, we’re on this tour for a reason and we want to play against great teams. Oregon came out and played well. I think that experiencing a loss like this is why we want to know what it will feel like going into Tokyo, knowing that we want to win, knowing that we can’t let our guard down. This will help prepare us for winning another gold medal, that’s what this is all about.”
The USA finished the night shooting 55.7% from the field but was just 8-of-23 from 3-point. Oregon shot 50.0% (35-70 FGs) for the game, was 9-of-26 from 3-point, and a perfect 14-of-14 from the foul line. Oregon outrebounded the USA 34-29, and doubled up the USA on the offensive glass 12-6.
“I watch college basketball, so I’m not surprised by anything,” added Bird. “If anything on this college tour has been surprising, it’s the height. These teams are tall. So, that’s been surprising. Overall, we knew from the first three games that they’re going to come out, they’re going to throw the first punch, it’s going to get loud. I think the difference with Oregon was that they never quit. Some of the other teams, we eventually wore them down a little bit but not this team. Obviously for them that’s good news moving forward.”
The 2019-20 USA National Team is now 9-1 overall, having compiled a 6-0 mark and the gold medal at the FIBA AmeriCup in September and a 3-1 record in its fall college exhibition schedule. The USA will continue its training and return to action Nov. 14-17 for the FIBA Americas Pre-Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Bahia Blanca, Argentina.
A’ja Wilson (Las Vegas Aces/South Carolina), who averaged 20.0 points and 7.5 rebounds in the team’s first two games, returned home prior to the third game due to the death of a loved one. She will rejoin the squad in time for the games in Argentina.