Oregon women clinch Pac-12 title
There was little doubt the Oregon women's basketball team would clinch its third consecutive Pac-12 regular-season championship on Friday.
And it happened before the Ducks took the court against Washington State, thanks to Arizona's win over Stanford.
But that didn't keep Oregon from delivering another championship performance at sold-out Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene.
Ruthy Hebard had 28 points and 14 rebounds, Satou Sabally had 22 points and Sabrina Ionescu had 12 points and 12 assists as Oregon rolled to a 88-57 win over the Cougars.
With their 15th win in a row, the No. 3-ranked Ducks improved to 27-2, 17-1 in conference play.
When it was over, Ionescu addressed the crowd of 12,634, talking about how her "unfinished business" has transformed from the pursuit of a national championship into much more, stating that "this team" was the unfinished business.
Then a video played with Ionescu and her teammates talking about their Jan. 26 game at Oregon State, the day Kobe and Gianna Bryant died. In the video, players talked about the emotion of that day and how it gave them a new perspective and tightened their bonds as they rallied around Ionescu.
After the video, the Ducks took turns cutting down the net, Ionescu the last to take the scissors.
There was one moment that subdued the crowd, when Sabally rolled her ankle in the third quarter. She did not return to the game, but was able to climb the ladder to cut a piece of twine.
Oregon scored the game's first 13 points and shot 71 percent (22-31) in the first half on its way to a 53-26 lead. Ionescu had 10 of the Ducks 16 first-half assists and Hebard made all eight of her first-half shots and had 20 points at intermission.
The Ducks are only the second Pac-10/12 women's basketball program to win three regular-season conference titles in a row. Stanford has had multiple three-in-a-row runs, including eight consecutive outright regular-season conference titles from 2004-05 through 2011-12, a run that was part of 14 consecutive years that the Cardinal at least shared the conference title.
That run ended in 2014-15, when Oregon State won the outright title. The Beavers won three in a row, but shared the 2015-16 regular-season championship with Arizona State.
The last six seasons, the conference championship has landed in the state of Oregon.
The Ducks will celebrate seniors Ionescu, Hebard, Minyon Moore and junior Sabally (who is turning pro) on Sunday when they complete the regular season with a noon home game against Washington.
Then comes the Pac-12 Tournament at Las Vegas, which for Oregon as the No. 1 seed will begin on the afternoon of March 6.
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