9:16 PM ET
CloseMechelle Voepel covers the WNBA, women’s college basketball, and other college sports for espnW. Voepel began covering women’s basketball in 1984, and has been with ESPN since 1996.
EUGENE, Ore. — Oregon showed why it’s the No. 1-ranked women’s basketball team and favored to win the NCAA championship when it rolled to a rare victory over the U.S. national team Saturday.
The Ducks prevailed 93-86, becoming just the second college squad to ever beat the Americans. The other was Tennessee on Nov. 7, 1999.
In front of a crowd of 11,530 at Matthew Knight Arena, the Ducks thrilled their fans with the win, led by seniors Sabrina Ionescu and Ruthy Hebard. Ionescu, a guard expected to be the No. 1 pick in the WNBA draft in April, had 30 points and seven assists for the Ducks. Hebard had 18 points and 11 rebounds. Junior forward Satou Sabally added 25 points on 10-for-18 shooting, including 3-for-7 on 3-point attempts.
“We knew they were the best team in the world, the best players in the world,” Ionescu said. “We were going to just try to stay within 20. We were like, ‘Let’s give it our best shot and see where we are. Let’s not worry about the score, winning or losing. Just play.’ As the game continued to go on, we kind of forgot about who they were and what the expectations were of them beating us. We were just trying to play our game and play it to perfection.”
The Ducks advanced to the Women’s Final Four for the first time last season, losing in the semifinals to Baylor. Ionescu was eligible agewise to declare for the draft then, but she opted to return for her senior season at Oregon.
Ionescu had five points in the first half Saturday but then took over in the third quarter, in which she scored 20 of her points. That included a shot-clock-beating 3-pointer not far from half court, which was followed by another deep 3 from Sabally.
“All of a sudden the momentum swung, and we couldn’t get it back,” said the Minnesota Lynx’s Cheryl Reeve, who is serving as head coach of the national team while South Carolina’s Dawn Staley is busy with her college squad. “They played great. We were disappointed we got outrebounded. But overall, it was a great day for women’s basketball.”
The U.S. squad was led by Nneka Ogwumike of the Los Angeles Sparks with 19 points and 14 rebounds.
Saturday’s game was the fourth against a college team in just over a week for the U.S. The Americans beat Stanford 95-80 last Saturday, Oregon State 81-58 on Monday and Texas A&M 93-63 on Thursday.
The Americans are preparing for the 2020 Olympics with a core group of eight players joined by others from the national team pool. Two of the core eight were not in Oregon. Washington Mystics forward Elena Delle Donne, the 2019 WNBA MVP, has missed all four games because of herniated disks in her back, while Las Vegas Aces forward A’ja Wilson missed the past two games because of a death in her family.
The Americans have won all their non-exhibition games since the 2006 World Cup, when they fell to Russia in the semifinals. U.S. teammates Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi, who are attempting to make their fifth Olympic team in 2020, were on that ’06 team.
“It goes to show you’re never too old to learn some lessons,” Bird said of the loss to the Ducks. “This time we had to learn the hard way. But congratulations to Oregon.”
The Ducks officially begin their season Monday against Northeastern.
“When we came out in that third quarter — which is the quarter where [the Americans] have kind of put their foot down and stomped on people — we played them toe-to-toe,” Oregon coach Kelly Graves said. “It showed a lot of character. This is a memorable night.”
Read this article from its source at http://www.espn.com/womens-college-basketball/story/_/id/28044547/sabrina-ionescu-leads-no-1-oregon-upset-win-team-usa