Womhoops Guru

Mel Greenberg covered college and professional women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 40 plus years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather," as well as induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

No Ducking for Oregon in Upset of Duke and on to 1st NCAA Sweet Sixteen

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

DURHAM, N.C. – After getting by seventh-seeded Temple by the slimmest of margins 71-70 Saturday night, 10th-seeded Oregon came back 48 hours later to upset second-seeded Duke 74-65 in the Blue Devils’s Cameron Indoor Stadium Monday night and move on to its first NCAA Sweet 16 playing Saturday in the semifinals of the Bridgeport Regional in Connecticut.

Oregon (22-13) won it on  merit and quick growth of the Ducks’ talented freshmen group but it also caught a Blue Devils (28-6) squad that suffered a major wound Saturday night when sophomore guard Kyra Gilbert suffered a knee  injury in the first half of a blowout win over 15th-seeded Hampton.

So instead of the tantalizing storylines looming over what would have been a Duke-Maryland matchup such as the Blue Devils’ junior guard Lexi Brown facing her former Terrapins team that is now in the Big 10 or the reunion of the then both ACC teams that played for the 2006 NCAA championship won by Maryland in overtime in Boston, it will be the rebuilt Ducks under former Gonzaga coach Kelly Graves in that slot instead.

Of course, it is also the Regional of Doom considering the other side of the bracket has overall No. 1 Connecticut (34-0) meeting No. 4 UCLA (25-8) , which advanced Monday night 75-43 at home against Texas A&M and is a Pac-12 rival of Oregon, which had a slew of ranked teams in the Associated Press women’s (media) poll this season, of which the Ducks made a brief appearance.

Connecticut is riding in with a record win streak now extended to 109 straight after blasting Syracuse 94-64 Monday night at home in Gampel Pavilion on UConn’s campus in Storrs.

No longer, just a case of Stanford and a bunch of others in the Cardinal’s shadow, the Pac-12 showed its muscle this season as the No. 1 RPI rated conference and has placed five teams in the Sweet 16.

“The Pac-12 play and the season prepared us for this moment,” Graves said. “Duke is a great, team, no question about it. But so is Oregon State, who we had to play twice; Stanford, who we had to play twice, and they were a two seed; Washington we played a couple of times and they were a three seed; UCLA was a four seed.

“Night in and night out, I think that’s what made these guys better. They couldn’t take a night off, they had to perform each and every night. I do credit the Pac-12 play with making us better and preparing for this moment tonight.”

The Maryland-Oregon matchup will showcase two of the nation’s top newcomers in the Terrapins’ Destiny Slocum, who, on Saturday, made an incredible nearly length-of-court shot against West Virginia as the first half expired, and Oregon’s Sabrina Ionescu, who is one of several frosh on the Ducks’ roster.

Ruthy Hebard, who beat Temple offensively and defensively in the final five seconds Saturday night, had 20 points and 15 rebounds against Duke, Ionescu had 13 and dealt six assists, sophomore Maite Cazorla had 17 and dealt six assists, and junior Lexi Bando shook off a mediocre shooting start to score 14 points and deal five assists.

Duke’s Brown, who finished her first season of eligibility after transferring, had a game-high 25 points, and senior Oderah Chidom scored 11, while Rebecca Greenwell was held to six points.

Oregon took an early five-point lead that held up most of the first quarter, fell behind by a point in the second, and then immediately grabbed the lead back and went on to build the differential to 15 points with eight minutes left in the game.

“Obviously, just a tough and physical game,” Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “I thought we fought very hard as a team.

 “(Oregon) had more players step up and play across the board,” she continued. “They had better balance with 20 assists and they played more of a full 40 minutes.  I didn’t particularly appreciate our first half.

"I thought we rushed and didn’t do the things we needed, but I really appreciated our second half and our fight by our team.”

Oregon’s largest lead was by 15 points early in the fourth period and it shrank to five with 15 seconds left but the outcome was not in doubt at that moment.”

In the third period, a Brown jumper had moved Duke within a basket, but then the Ducks went on a 7-0 run to provide a quick answer to the Blue Devils.

“We didn’t want this to be our last game,” Hebard said. “We knew Duke was good. They made it this far and we just wanted to come in and hopefully get another game. That’s what we did.”


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