EUGENE – The best college team in America beat the best team in the world.
Sabrina Ionescu scored 30 points and Satou Sabally added 25, combing for 41 of 55 second-half points for No. 1 Oregon in a stunning 93 – (upset of Team USA Saturday night at Mathew Knight Arena.)
Ionescu scored 20 of Oregon’s 30 points in the third quarter, including a layup to put the Ducks up 68 – 67 heading into the final frame.
“I think before the game and the week leading up to it, watching the other (Team USA) games, we knew that they’re the best team in the world, the best players in the world, “Ionescu said.“ So we were just go ing to try to stay within 20. As the game started and even before the game, we were like, ‘Let’s give it our best shot and see where we are. Let’s not worry about the score, let’s not worry about winning or losing, let’s just play Duck basketball. ‘As the game continued to go on we kind of forget about who they were and what the expectations of them beating us and we were just trying to play our game and play it to perfection. ”
Oregon opened the fourth quarter with a Ionescu 3-pointer from just inside half court that brought the crowd of 11, 530, more than 159 DI schools had all of last season at home including Washington State and USC, to its feet.
“I practice those shots a lot,” she said. “I wasn’t nervous really about the distance. I knew there was about five seconds left on the shot clock and I thought the shot was open, so I took it and it ended up being a good shot. ”
Sabally had 16 points of Oregon’s 25 points in the fourth quarter, including a 3-pointer that made it 79 – 69 with 6: 51 to go and followed with another layup to open a 12 – point lead.
“You felt a swing when all of a sudden when Sabrina hit a darn near half-court shot, Sabally hit a deep 3 and all of a sudden the momentum swung, “Team USA coach Cheryl Reeve said. “We couldn’t get it back from them. They played great. We were disappointed we got outrebounded (34 – 29), but overall it was a great day for women’s basketball. ”
Days after saying they’d be “delusional” to believe they could beat team USA, Oregon coach Kelly Graves sent the signal they were going for the win by putting starters Ruthy Hebard (18 points and 11 rebounds) and Minyon Moore 10 points (back on the floor with 4: 57 to go.
“When we came out that third quarter, which is the quarter they’ve put their foot down and stomped on people, and we played them toe-to-toe and took the lead through there, I thought that was huge, “Graves said. “It showed a lot of character. … I thought once we started that third quarter and obviously build a little lead then yeah, if you have a chance to win the game you’re going to win the game, exhibition or no. This was an amazing opportunity. … I think you have an opportunity like that, you go for it. “
(Napheesa Collier) 10 points) brought Team USA within 87 – 84 with 1: 02 to go and Oregon responded with a layup from Sabally, who went on to drain a pair of free throws to make it 91 – 84 with 17 .1 to go, effectively sealing the upset.
“I was jus t thinking about making those two shots and staying focused – I’m always in the zone, ”said Sabally, who will leave to join the German national team overseas next week and miss the first three games of Oregon’s season. “As soon as the game stopped, we were like ‘Oh my God, what just happened?’ We were asking ourselves as we were celebrating.”
Nnemkadi Ogwumike scored 19 points and had 14 rebounds and Diana Taurasi had 17 points for Team USA, which entered the night 195 – 15 all-time in exhibition play including 43 – 1 all-time against college teams, beating No. 3 Stanford 95 – 80), No. 7 Oregon State 81 – 58) and No. 6 Texas A&M 93 – 63) by an average of over 22 points over the last week. Team USA’s last loss to a college team came on Nov. 7, 1999 to Pat Summit’s Tennessee Lady Vols (65 – 64).
“I think the difference maybe with Oregon is they never quit,” said WNBA veteran Sue Bird (eight points, eight assists), who guarded Ionescu most of the night. “Some of the other teams I think eventually we kind of wore them down a little bit, but not this team tonight. So obviously for them that’s good news moving forward. ”
Already the overwhelming favorite in the Pac – 12 and the top-ranked team in the country, Oregon will open its season against Northeastern Monday afternoon (3 pm, Pac – 12 Network) with even more attention and momentum from a stunning accomplishment.
But even Graves joked afterward about a message Taurasi, a four-time Olympic gold medalist, three-time WNBA champion and the league’s all-time leading scorer, had for him about not “peaking” too early given the Ducks’ goals this season.
“This is a memorable night, ‘Graves said. “Great crowd, they were loud. That’s almost really about as good as it can get in basketball.
“And all that being said, we’re 0-0. ”