Ionescu makes history, Ducks beat Stanford
Sabrina Ionescu's unforgettable Oregon career had a day that will live forever in basketball lore.
Not women's college basketball lore. Basketball lore.
The Ducks' senior guard fought off grief, illness and a determined Stanford team to post her 26th career triple-double, along the way becoming the first player in college basketball history — women or men — to score at least 2,000 career points, dish at least 1,000 assists and grab at least 1,000 rebounds.
But the number that mattered most was the final score. Third-ranked Oregon beat No. 4 Stanford 74-66 at Maples Pavilion, securing at least a share of the third consecutive Pac-12 regular-season title for the visiting Ducks. Oregon is 26-2, 15-1 in the conference. Stanford is 24-4, 13-3 in conference.
Oregon will be the No. 1 seed at the Pac-12 tournament and can clinch the title outright with one more win. The Ducks close out the regular season with games Friday against Washington State and Sunday against Washington at Matthew Knight Arena.
Ionescu's final line: 21 points, 12 rebounds 12 assists. Her 26th triple-double is her first against a top-10 opponent.
Her day started in Los Angeles, where she spoke eloquently of her friendship with Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna at the public memorial attended by some 20,000 at Staples Center. She then returned to Stanford and played in the nationally-televised showdown.
"Being able to speak was such an honor for me, and being able to hear everyone speak. I tried to do everything I could to try to hold it together tonight and my team helped me a lot," Ionescu said during an ESPN postgame interview.
Adding to the poetic nature of what had to be a surreal day, Ionescu passed the 1,000-rebound mark in a game played on the date 2-24-20. Gianna Bryant wore the No. 2, Kobe wore 24 and Ionescu wears No. 20.
"I can't really put that into words," she said. "He's looking down on me and I'm just really happy for this moment with my team."
Ionescu missed warmups because she was sick to her stomach, but found the drive to honor the Bryants by competing at her typical high level.
"In true Sabrina fashion, she goes out on the biggest day in the biggest moment and shines bright," Oregon coach Kelly Graves said. "It was really neat to see how hard she competed tonight. Gave it everything she had."
While Ionescu shined in the spotlight, it was junior forward Satou Sabally who did much heavy lifting to keep the Ducks a step ahead of the Cardinal. Sabally scored 27 points, had nine rebounds and made two steals. She hit four 3-pointers, each coming on possessions that felt significant.
Sabally's performance was needed on a night Stanford's defense denied the pick and roll and limited Ruthy Hebard to four points (on only two shot attempts) and four rebounds.
Sabally's 27 points countered the 27 poured in by Stanford sophomore Lexie Hull, whose strong game kept the Cardinal within striking distance every time it looked like Oregon might sail to victory. Hull finished 6 of 12 from 3-point distance.
Both teams had 10 turnovers during a sloppy first half. But the Ducks defense — Stanford went more than nine minutes without scoring during a stretch that spanned the first two quarters — allowed Oregon to lead by as many as 19 points in the second quarter.
Stanford closed the first half with a 10-1 run to pull within 10 points. After the Cardinal pulled within 34-29 early in the third quarter, Sabally scored 13 points in a 17-5 run that restored a cushion for the Ducks, who pushed their advantage to 18 in the third quarter. Stanford got within nine points a couple times in the fourth quarter, but Sabally scored a put-back the first time and Ionescu a tough driving basket the next to restore a double-digit lead.
On its broadcast, ESPN reported that Ionescu was ill and had not eaten Monday.
"We are all so proud, especially of Sabrina, who had a tough day," Sabally told Oregon radio announcer Terry Jonz. "We did it for her. We did it for Kobe and Gigi."
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