PORTLAND, Ore. — Thanks to another stellar performance from Sabrina Ionescu and a lift from a home-state crowd, Oregon is heading to its first women's Final Four.
Ionescu had 31 points, eight assists and seven rebounds, and the second-seeded Ducks beat No. 1 seed Mississippi State 88-84 on Saturday.
Satou Sabally had 22 points and seven rebounds for the Ducks (33-4), who head to Tampa to face the winner of Monday's game between top overall seed Baylor and Iowa.
At the final buzzer, Ionescu jumped into teammate Ruthy Hebard's arms, and coach Kelly Graves flashed an "O'' with his hands to the crowd. The Ducks had been eliminated in the Elite Eight the past two seasons.
Teaira McCowan had 19 points and 15 rebounds in her final game for the Bulldogs (33-3), who had played in the NCAA title game for the past two seasons. Two of Mississippi State's losses this season were to Oregon, and the first one was a true road game.
This time, Mississippi State just felt like the away team, even though the Bulldogs wore their home whites. Attendance at the Moda Center was announced at 11,534, with the vast majority cheering on the Ducks — a tough draw for a top seed.
Ionescu's jumper put Oregon up 78-73 with just under three minutes left. After McCowan made a pair of free throws, Ionescu added a 3.
Bre'Amber Scott's layup with 54 seconds left pulled the Bulldogs within 81-77, but Maite Cazorla answered with a 3-pointer for the Ducks. Jazzmun Holmes' jumper cut the margin to five points with 26.4 seconds to go, but Mississippi State could not catch up.
Oregon also beat Mississippi State in December, ending the Bulldogs' streak of 46 consecutive regular-season nonconference wins.
Ionescu averaged 19.6 points, 8.3 assists and 7.5 rebounds going into Sunday's game. The Pac-12 Player of the year has 18 career triple-doubles, an NCAA record among men and women, including eight this season.
The Bulldogs went up 15-8 early, but Sabally hit a 3-pointer that closed the gap as Oregon relied on its perimeter game. Ionescu's 3 tied it at 19, but the Bulldogs had free throws to make it 21-19 at the end of the first quarter.
The Ducks hit five of eight 3-pointers in the opening period alone.
Oregon pulled in front 30-27 on Cazorla's 3-pointer in the second quarter. The Ducks led 40-38 at the break. Ionescu led all scorers with 15 points, including three 3-pointers.
Hebard was tasked with guarding McCowan, but she collected a pair of fouls and went to the bench midway through the second quarter. But she opened the second half with a layup, and Ionescu added another to give the Ducks a 44-38 lead. Andra Espinoza-Hunter made a 3-pointer to close the gap.
Oregon held the edge until Howard's layup put the Bulldogs in front 54-53.
Mississippi State got a scare late in the quarter when McCowan went down hard on a layup attempt and stayed on the floor for several moments. She went to the bench holding the right side of her chest.
Oregon: The Ducks lost to eventual champion Notre Dame in last year's Elite Eight. ... With her first basket of the night, Sabally went over 1,000 career points at Oregon.
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs fell short in their bid to become the seventh team to reach the Final Four three straight years. ... The 6-foot-7 McCowan, the SEC Player of the Year, was averaging 18.3 points and 13.5 rebounds and should be an impact player in the WNBA.
Baylor (34-1) reached the Elite Eight for the fifth time in six years with a 93-68 victory over South Carolina on Saturday, while Iowa (29-6) advanced with a 79-61 win over North Carolina State for the Hawkeyes' first Elite Eight berth since 1993.