The Oregon Ducks are headed to the Final Four for the first time in program history.
Two-seed Oregon won a classic, back-and-forth affair with the top-seed Mississippi State Bulldogs 88-84 to advance to the Final Four in Tampa, Fla.
Sabrina Ionescu led the way with a game-high 31 points along with 7 rebounds and 7 assists for Oregon. Satou Sabally added 22 points and 7 rebounds, and forward Ruthy Hebard had 14 points and 5 boards for Oregon.
Oregon will face the winner of Baylor vs Iowa, the Greensboro Regional Final, in the National Semifinals.
Tied 59-59 through three quarters, the Ducks got clutch shots from their star Sabrina Ionescu and gritty defense down the stretch to separate from the Bulldogs. The Ducks scored 29 points in the final period, with Ionescu cashing a big-time 3-pointer with 1:13 remaining to put Oregon up 81-75. Maite Cazorla added another triple with :35 left to make it a 84-77 game, a lead the Ducks would not relinquish.
Nifty finishes by Sabally and Ionescu at the rim gave the Ducks a 74-69 lead with 4:01 remaining. Oregon nearly had a big 3-pointer by Erin Boley, but Sabally was called for a charge making the kick-out pass.
Oregon scored the first 5 points of the final period on a layin by Ionescu at the shot clock buzzer, followed by a 3-pointer by Erin Boley from the corner. MSU cut the lead to one, and both sides traded big three-pointers, but a final triple from Ionescu made it 70-66 Ducks with 5:20 to go.
The teams entered the final period tied 59-59, with Ionescu pacing the Ducks with 17 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists.
The Bulldogs briefly tied the score at 50-50 with four minutes left in the third quarter, but a Ruthy Hebard cut and layin put the Ducks back in front. MSU grabbed a two-point lead again at 57-55 late in the period. Another Hebard bucket tied it at 59-59 in the final minute. McCowan picked up her 3rd personal foul, a charge, with ten seconds left.
Oregon scored the first four points of the 2nd half for a 44-38 lead, but Hebard was rejected at the rim by McCowan leading to a MSU 3-pointer, and another bucket made it 45-43 Ducks.
The Ducks took a slim 40-38 lead into the halftime break, led by Sabrina Ionescu’s 15 points including 3-for-5 from beyond the arc. Mississippi State’s Tieara McCowan was dominant in the post, notching a double-double in the first half alone (12pts, 10 reb) including 6 offensive rebounds. Satou Sabally came up with some clutch first-half baskets as well for Oregon to score 10 points in the opening half.
Oregon shot 55% from the floor in the first half, including 8-for-15 (53%) from beyond the arc, while Mississippi State countered with 45% shooting in the opening half and 4-for-7 (57%) from downtown. The Bulldogs were 6-for-9 from the foul line in the first half while Oregon did not attempt a free throw.
Oregon trailed by as many as seven in the first half with Mississippi State grabbing a 15-8 lead, but Ionescu started hitting from the outside to help the Ducks get closer.
Midway through the second quarter Oregon took a 30-27 lead on a Maite Cazorle 3-pointer, only to see Mississippi State go on a 6-0 run, but Erin Boley knotted things again at 33-33 with a triple from the left wing. Ionescu followed with a floater in the lane to make it 35-33 Ducks at the 3:29 mark of the 2nd period.
The Ducks got off to a slow start, trailing by as many as seven in the opening quarter at 15-8. Oregon closed the frame with a 11-6 run, at one point tying the score before finishing the quarter trailing 21-19.
Oregon trailed 15-8, but Sabrina Ionescu found Satou Sabally for a big transition 3-pointer that stopped the 8-0 run by the Bulldogs, and the cut the deficit to 15-11. Ionescu made her first field goal just over 2 minutes left in the first quarter, a 3-pointer to make it 17-14 MIssissippi State. Ionescu added mother triple to diet the game at 19-19 and bring the Moda crowd to its feet for the final 30 seconds of teh first quarter. A pair of Mississippi State free throws made it 21-19 to end the opening frame.