From the moment the Ducks stepped on the court, it was clear who was the better team.
Oregon started the game on a 10-2 run, and UConn was immediately in a hole that they never managed to climb out of. By the end of four quarters – all of which UConn lost – the Ducks handed the Huskies their largest loss at Gampel Pavilion ever, and their largest loss on campus since 1986, according to ESPN Women’s Hoops on Twitter.
Oregon's 18-point win marked UConn's largest loss at Gampel Pavilion, which opened in 1990. It was their largest on-campus loss since a 20-point loss in 1986 vs. Villanova (at the old Hugh S. Greer Field House)
— ESPN Women's Hoops (@ESPN_WomenHoop) February 4, 2020
The final deficit was 18 to be exact, falling to the Ducks 74-56. UConn (19-2, 9-0 The American) cut the Oregon (20-2, 9-1 Pac-12) lead to six with a little under four minutes left in the second quarter, but just over a minute later, the Ducks had a 10-point lead, one that would remain in double-digits for the rest of the game.
“You watch how easily they accomplished some things, and it’s a reflection of a really well-coached team with really experienced players, and they know who’s supposed to get the ball, and they know when and where you’re supposed to get it, and they’re smart defensively,” UConn head coach Geno Auriemma said. “They’re all the things that a team at that stage of their program, they’re everything that they should be. They came in here and did something that very few people really have been able to do. During that first quarter, it was evident that physically, we couldn’t match up with them tonight. Plain and simple.”
Oregon’s Ruthy Hebard led the game with 22 points on 10-of-14 shooting along with 12 rebounds, also a game-high. The Huskies as a whole were completely dominated in the paint, not only getting outrebounded by eight including a plus-three advantage on the offensive glass, but also in the scoring column, where Oregon held a staggering 44-14 advantage.
“Ruthy gets the shots she wants and knows how to get it, and gets it as many times as she can, and then makes it,” Auriemma said. “That’s the sign of a helluva player. And today she faced very little competition in the lane. So it was a senior like her having her way against our guys in the lane.”
Fellow senior Sabrina Ionescu also had her way with the UConn defense, and while she only put up 10 points on 4-of-12 shooting, she found other ways to be effective, most notably dishing out nine assists as part of a perfectly executed pick and roll that left the Huskies scrambling and often giving up uncontested buckets. She also grabbed nine boards, the third most on her team and in the game, but also turned it over a game-high four times.
As for the Huskies, it was senior Crystal Dangerfield who really kept UConn close for a while, seemingly just refusing to miss shots. At one point she was 4-for-4 from beyond the arc, making some shots that even the best shooters often do not. By the end of the 40 minutes, she had 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting including 4-of-6 from three, missing two Hail Mary 3s down the stretch looking for a miracle comeback when the game was all but over. She played 39 of the 40 minutes, only coming out for the final 60 seconds to a loud ovation.
Megan Walker also played the same 39 minutes, but her night was just about the opposite, as she had some serious trouble getting her shots to fall. She finished the game with just eight points on 3-of-16 shooting, with half of her shots coming from deep and making just two of them. She did lead the team with seven rebounds, but the 13 missed shots was one of the biggest reasons UConn struggled as badly as they did.
Walker has transformed herself into a real scoring threat for the Huskies this season, regularly putting up 20-plus points. Not having that given tonight, Dangerfield said, was unfortunate.
The rest of team didn’t play terribly offensively, with those not named Walker or Dangerfield shooting a solid 41% on the night from the field and 4-of-11 from deep.
It was the defense that really did them in, as they just never seemed to find an answer for the pick and roll.
“That was probably the most frustrating part, because they were easy, it was a lot of uncontested shots, and we pride ourselves on making teams miss,” Dangerfield said. “Like, they miss a wide-open shot, okay, they just missed, but we pride ourselves on making teams miss and we didn’t do that tonight.”
As for Oregon, this was a revenge game a long time in the making. This team and these seniors lost by nearly 40 points to the Huskies in 2017 in the NCAA tournament in Bridgeport. Now, they beat the Huskies by almost 20 on their true home court.
“It means a lot,” Oregon head coach Kelly Graves said. “This is hallowed ground kind of, so to speak. They’ve been so good for so long, it means a great deal. … This was one personally I’ll for a long time. I mean, who doesn’t look up to Geno. He’s an icon and a great coach, I think he’s the best coach in our business, so personally, that’s gratifying. I know for the team, they really earned this, and they wanted it.”
The Huskies are back in action on Friday when they host the Memphis Tigers to close out a three-game Gampel stretch before heading down the coast to take on the South Carolina Gamecocks in what will be another tough test for this squad against a team that is also one of the best in the nation.