Erin Boley made the first two three-pointers she attempted in a game on her new home court.
Oregon’s sophomore transfer missed her next nine attempts behind the arc against Syracuse before the ball found her with 51 seconds left in a tie game.
“I just try to go into every shot knowing its going in, no matter how many I missed before,” Boley said.
So Boley didn’t hesitate to put up a shot from the corner that went in to put Oregon back ahead 70-67, and the third-ranked Ducks held on for a 75-73 win over No. 18 Syracuse in front of 6,879 Saturday afternoon at Matthew Knight Arena.
“Exciting game, lot of fun to play and coach,” Oregon coach Kelly Graves said. “Great intensity, really proud of the team. … It was great for us early in the season to play that kind of a game.”
Syracuse never led until Gabrielle Cooper made a three-pointer to put the Orange ahead 62-61 with 3:24 left. Tiana Mangakahia drove for a basket and Cooper hit another three-pointer to put Syracuse up 67-61 with 2:06 to play.
“A six-point deficit is not a lot in basketball,” Oregon junior Sabrina Ionescu said. “It’s a quick two-possession turnaround.”
Ionescu proved her point by making back-to-back three-pointers to tie the game 67-67 with 1:24 left to go.
“I just did what I could to not lose that game,” Ionescu said. “They left me open and I knew it was time to hit some big-time shots. My teammates got me the ball and as soon as I released it, I knew it was going in.”
Ionescu had a chance at the go-ahead shot, but passed off to Boley for a three-pointer.
“I know Erin had struggled, but I knew she’d make that one,” Graves said.
After Mangakahia missed a three-pointer to tie, Syracuse got the rebound before Maite Cazorla got a steal and made two free throws with 28 seconds remaining.
Ionescu made a free throw that put Oregon ahead 73-69 before Mangakahia scored with 10 seconds remaining. Oregon got the ball to Cazorla, who added two more free throws to seal the win.
“That was a Sweet 16 game there,” Graves said. “The crowd was intense and two teams that started to play better. It is early in the season, so it’s not going to look pretty. Have you watched the Lakers? It’s not going to be pretty for a while, but I am proud we grinded it out.”
Ionescu had 26 points, 10 rebounds and six assists while Cazorla finished with 14 points and five assists. Boley scored with 13 points and Ruthy Hebard added 11 points and 14 rebounds.
Oregon (2-0) built a 10-point lead in the first quarter and stretched the margin to 31-16 when Oti Gildon converted a three-point play with 4:11 left in the second quarter. Syracuse (1-1) closed within 34-27 at the half and scored the first four points of the third quarter before Ionescu responded with five points in a row and Hebard added a free throw to put Oregon up 40-31.
Ionescu opened the fourth quarter with a three-pointer to put the Ducks ahead 51-44. Emily Engstler tied the game at 54-54, but Ionescu followed with a three-pointer that was answered by a three-pointer from Miranda Drummond to tie the game 57-57.
Engstler was called for a foul and then a technical, leading to two free throws apiece by Ionescu and Cazorla to put Oregon up 61-57 with 4:24 remaining.
Syracuse followed with 10 straight points before Ionescu’s consecutive three-pointers tied the game and then she passed to Boley for the lead.
“That’s why Sabrina is Sabrina,” Graves said. “I told her she played like an All-American. That’s what they are supposed to do and she did it.”