DURHAM, N.C. – The second-seeded Duke Blue Devils suffered their only loss at home this season at the hands of No. 10 seed Oregon, falling 74-65 in second-round play of the 2017 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Monday.
In the two teams’ first-ever meeting, the Blue Devils contended with a hot perimeter-shooting attack from Oregon’s Maite Cazorla and Lexi Bando who each dropped four 3-pointers apiece.
Though capable, Duke couldn’t match that output – not on this night.
“Just, obviously a tough, very physical and excellent game,” Duke head coach Joanne P. McCallie said.
“I thought we fought very hard as a team. I think it’s important to compliment Oregon for how they played. They had more players step up and play across the board. They had better balance with 20 assists and they played more of a full 40 (minutes).”
Even while the Blue Devils outscored the Ducks in second-chance points by a 15-6 margin, inconsistent shooting and rushing shots made the difference.
The one-two punch of guards Lexie Brown and Rebecca Greenwell couldn’t connect the way they had in previous games this season.
While Brown scored 25 points, Greenwell was limited to six points, even while fighting to claim nine rebounds.
She was held scoreless (0-of-6) in the first half for only the third time this season.
“We had a couple of keys going in and we wanted to make Lexie work,” Oregon head coach Kelly Graves said.
“Lexie is a great player. She is truly a great player so we wanted to just make her work for everything she got, whereas Greenwell can’t create her own shot as well, so we just made sure that wherever she was at, we had somebody on her. We chased over every screen. We helped when we needed to. I thought our kids did a good job communicating, so it was just a focus thing. If we made them make twos, we knew we were in for a good night.”
The loss of guard Kyra Lambert, who tore her ACL in the Blue Devils’ prior win over Hampton on Saturday, played a role in Duke’s inability to function effectively at both ends of the court.
Without Lambert, who had started all 33 games this season, Duke’s tempo and pace of play was different.
The Ducks took advantage of that.
Leading the Oregon attack was a double-double finish from forward Ruthy Hebard (20 points, 15 rebounds) along with guard Sabrina Ionescu’s 13 points and eight rebounds who rounded out 17 and 14 points from Cazorla and Bando, respectively.
“Oregon is a great team and one of the top three-point shooting teams in the country,” Brown stated. We knew that going in. Kyra was one of our best perimeter defenders, so you have to factor that into our defense. I thought that we held them in check at times and then at times we had breakdowns defensively.”
Prolonged stretches of missed scoring opportunities in the paint eventually worked against the Blue Devils.
“We just had to make things happen on offense,” Brown said.
“We weren’t making shots. We were getting any shot we wanted, and some of them weren’t going down.”
Having not played in the NCAA Tournament since 2005, Oregon’s win advanced them to the Sweet 16 for the first time in program history.
While the Ducks will face No. 3 Maryland in Bridgeport, Conn. on Saturday, the Blue Devils will take some time to process the abrupt end to their season.
“Gosh, that’s a lot right now,” McCallie said.
“We’re trying to digest this, but I will say I’m very proud of this team. This team has been really fun to coach, really fun to coach. I mean, I thought we did a lot of great things this year. I’ll have to think about it, look at it. Defensively, it was great to be a dominant defensive team in the ACC because the ACC is so strong. We had some great times where we rose as a team, had to fight back. I just love that, you know. The lessons learned here for these kids [are]: adversity, events outside of your control, things that happen in life that seem very unfair or wrong or whatever you say, but yet, they found a way to come together uniquely.
“Right now we’re hurting. We feel we could have won this game. We can’t really talk about that. It’s not really appropriate now, but it’s tough to take. And our crowd, you know, the people that have come and supported us, and we’ve done so well at Cameron. It’s been a special place to play. It’s just a lot of things and there is a whole lot of lessons that will apply to next season relative to these experiences – a whole lot.”
Oregon: Ruthy Hebard – 20 points, 15 rebounds; Maite Cazorla – 17 points, 6 assists; Lexi Bando – 14 points, 5 assists; Sabrina Ionescu – 13 points, 8 rebounds
Duke: Lexie Brown – 25 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists; Oderah Chidom – 11 points, 4 rebounds; Kendall Cooper – 9 points, 9 rebounds;
Oregon 31, Duke 26
Hebard and Cazorla led Oregon with 10 points each with Cazorla dropping three 3-pointers.
Brown answered back with 10 points while Duke shot at only 30 percent to the Ducks’ 42-percent finish.
The Ducks took control of the lead late in the opening quarter and didn’t look back as long-range shooting from Cazorla and Bando eventually made the difference, and denied Duke any room for error in attempting numerous comeback attempts for the rest of the game.
Cooper and Mathias opened scoring for Duke before Hebard did same for Oregon
A three from Cazorla put the Ducks ahead 9-4 before the Blue Devils responded to cut the difference to one with 4:35 remaining.
After Primm tied it 12-12, Oregon outscored Duke 7-2 and led 19-14 heading into the next period.
The Blue Devils put together an early 6-0 run to pull closer, but the Ducks continued to keep them at a distance, holding a four-point advantage, 28-24, at the 4:49 mark.
Both teams struggled to score as missed shots and tighter defensive coverage allowed for only free throw conversions.
Oregon led 31-26 at halftime.
After another quick five-point start by Duke matched by only two, the Ducks lineup strung together a 7-0 run and pushed its lead to 40-31 with 6:09 remaining.
The Blue Devils answered back with six points led by Chidom and Cooper before Hebard’s layup brought the home crowd’s energy down considerably.
A turnover by Cazorla allowed Brown to drive the basket uncontested to pull Duke within four, trailing 46-44 with 2:12 left.
Oregon took advantage of its possessions and strung together a 7-0 run capped off by Hebard’s buzzer beater.
Oregon led 53-42 to start the period.
While committing turnovers, the Ducks didn’t pay for them as Duke missed key opportunities to pull closer.
Instead Cazorla’s hot hand beyond the arc helped Oregon extend its lead to 59-44 with 7:54 to go.
Brown led a Blue Devils surge, scoring five quick points to cut the difference to 10 points in just over a minute.
A three from Bando provided the Ducks with some breathing room as Duke continued to climb back in.
Greenwell cut the Oregon lead to 62-55 with four minutes to play.
A putback from Greenwell had Duke trailing 65-58 with just over a minute to play.
Brown’s jumper still had the deficit at seven points after the Ducks countered with a layup.
The final Duke comeback attempt was thwarted and Oregon finished the game’s scoring at the free throw line as Ionescu dropped six in a row.