BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — Considering the team’s recent itinerary, it would be entirely appropriate if Oregon’s guards were named Expedia, Kayak and Travelocity.
“Over the last five days, we went cross country twice, had final exams and played three great teams in this tournament,” Oregon coach Kelly Graves said.
The Ducks’ guards actually are named Sabrina Ionescu, Lexi Bando and Maite Cazorla, and they totaled 46 points and played exceptional defense as 10th-seeded Oregon stunned third-seeded Maryland, 77-63, on Saturday in the Bridgeport Region semifinal at Webster Bank Arena.
“Oregon is for real,” Maryland coach Brenda Frese said. “They punched first. They were fearless, aggressive, confident and really punished us in terms of any mistakes, any breakdowns, that we had.”
The mistakes were many for Maryland (32-3), especially on offense. The Terrapins entered the game the nation’s highest-scoring team at 90 points per game, but Oregon (23-13) held them to their lowest total of the season. Especially noteworthy was that Maryland did not make a single three-pointer, going 0-for-6.
Ionescu (21 points) and Bando (10 points) made three each from downtown. Cazorla scored 15 points, including 5-for-5 from the foul line.
“We just buckled down on defense,” Ionescu said. “We got back in transition and tried to stop their easy transition buckets.”
Maryland did not make a field goal for the first 4 1⁄2 minutes. Though Oregon also had only one at that juncture, the Ducks eventually reversed the trend. The Terps turned the ball over 21 times, leading to 18 points for the Ducks.
“That was the key to the game. We did a few things well,” Graves said. “Number one, early on we tried to go 2-2-1 [zone press] to slow them down. No. 2, we didn’t turn the ball over a lot, so they weren’t able to get out and get easy baskets in transition. And we shot the ball really well and played the game at our tempo.”
The Ducks shot it especially well in the third quarter, making 9 of 17 shots to take a 59-47 lead into the fourth quarter. That’s when Bando, after a cold start from beyond the arc, made consecutive three-pointers, one of them on a feed from Ionescu, who delivered more than an assist to her friend. “I definitely said a few things to her,” Ionescu said with a laugh. “But she’s the best shooter in America, so we all hold her to a high standard. I told her before the game, if she stops shooting, she’s being selfish. I told her to just let it fly.”
The Ducks know all about flight.