The University of Oregon women’s basketball team was terrifying even before the season began, and one exhibition game in, they’re feared that much more. That’s what happens when the No. 1 ranked team in college basketball beats Team USA. Yeah, like the national team.
The Ducks beat Team USA, 93-86, on their home floor to open an already ridiculously hyped year. It’s only the second time a college has knocked off Team USA dating back to 1999, when Tennessee, led by Kara Lawson and Tamika Catchings, won by a point. The Ducks did it comfortably.
The three stars who led Oregon to a Final Four trip last year, Sabrina Ionescu, Satou Sabally and Ruthy Hebard, dominated against some of the best players in the world. The trio combined for 73 points on 52 shots with 21 rebounds and nine assists.
The Ducks are definitely for real. Sheesh.
Why is Oregon playing against Team USA anyway?
This year, on the road to the 2020 Olympics, Team USA is playing against a handful of colleges as a way to boost viewership, gain fans, and train as a unit. They played four games in the fall against Stanford, Texas A&M, Oregon State, and Oregon. (They won the first three.) In late Jan. and early Feb., they’re slated to play UConn and Louisville.
Team USA lost to a college team! Do they suck?
No. Definitely no. The U.S. women have won gold at every Olympics since 1996, and that streak isn’t expected to end in 2020.
Team USA lost to Oregon in part because the Ducks have three first-round picks on their roster. Ionescu is so good she’s already played in exhibitions for the national team.
Team USA also wasn’t even close to full strength against the Ducks. Elena Delle Donne is the best player in the world, and she’s resting a back injury suffered while winning the WNBA Finals. Breanna Stewart was the MVP before her, and she’s also sidelined to an Achilles tear. A’ja Wilson, Rookie of the Year two seasons ago, missed the game for personal reasons. Brittney Griner isn’t with the team yet. Maya Moore, one of the world’s best scorers, took a year off from basketball. And four of the 11 players who played in the game against Oregon missed all or most of the WNBA season that ended four weeks ago, including Layshia Clarendon (ankle surgery, did not play in October’s WNBA Finals), Skylar Diggins-Smith (missed entire season after giving birth six months ago), Diana Taurasi (missed 29 of 35 to back injuries), and Sue Bird (missed entire season after knee scope.)
So how did Oregon win?
The most impressive part of the Ducks’ win is that they stayed in the game even when Ionescu was a non-factor. She had just five first-half points as Team USA double-teamed and trapped the 5’10 do-it-all point guard into giving the ball up.
Sabally and Hebard shouldered the scoring load until Ionescu’s 20-point third-quarter explosion (which we’ll get to in a minute.)
Hebard, at just 6’4, crashed the boards next to 6’6 Fowles and Ogwumike. She came up with 11, including four on the offensive end. She cleaned up misses and caught pocket passes in the pick-and-roll for 18 points on 9-of-14 shooting, and was key on the defensive end, too.
Good to see an early drive like this from Ruthy Hebard in this matchup with Syl pic.twitter.com/ipYmtK6EXG— Ben Dull (@ben_dull) November 10, 2019
Sabally, also 6’4, was the inside-out scoring savant that’s brought her name into the WNBA lottery pick discussion. She played physically in the post against Napheesa Collier, blew by Seimone Augustus off-the-dribble, and even iced a step-back three just to fully flaunt her well-rounded game. She’s a star, and finished with 25 points on 18 shots, including 3-of-7 from deep.
And then there’s Ionescu, who will almost definitely go No. 1 in April’s draft. When the triple-double machine got loose, she outshined Taurasi and Bird around the perimeter, draining pro-ranged threes, none more ridiculous than this one near the logo.
Ionescu was everything in the second half of the game. She finished with 30 points on 20 shots, and scored 20 in the third quarter alone. She shot 7-of-9, draining triples, driving to the bucket willingly and drawing contact all across the floor. Ionescu is strong, she’s smart, and she’s creative off-the-dribble. She had seven assists to one turnover despite being the center of the defensive attention from multiple Hall of Famers-to be.
Oregon women’s basketball is must-watch TV
Appreciate this team right now as the season is just about to begin, because you won’t see another like it any time soon. They’re dominant, star-studded and play so well together. Ionescu can drive, Sabally can shoot, and Hebard’s there to clean up the boards. The Ducks have a ridiculous one-two-three punch that’s sure to make the highlight reel all season long, and will be the favorite to cut down the nets in April.