Sabrina Ionescu’s struggle is unreal.
The first-team All-American was just 1-for-7 from the field but still finished with 12 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists to lead No. 3 Oregon to a 102-82 victory over Buffalo on Sunday at Matthew Knight Arena.
Ionescu was unfazed by the lack of style points accompanying her 12th career triple-double, extending her NCAA career record.
“That was like the worst triple-double I’ve ever had. It almost shouldn’t count,” Ionescu said. “But it was just nice to see everyone else step up.”
Ruthy Hebard led a balanced Oregon attack with 25 points. Erin Boley finished with 15 points on 5-for-8 shooting behind the arc.
The Ducks (4-0), despite committing 19 turnovers in a physical game, dominated the Bulls (2-1). Buffalo, coming off a Sweet 16 appearance, is picked to win the MAC and will be a tough out again in March.
“That will prove to be a good win,” Oregon coach Kelly Graves said. “They’re picked to win their league, and I anticipate they’re going to be an NCAA Tournament team again and they’re going to beat some people.”
Senior guard Cierra Dillard, a preseason Naismith Award candidate, led the Bulls with 32 points, four shy of her career high.
“We definitely still have a lot of improvement to do defensively,” said Ionescu, who had the knowledgeable crowd roaring when she collected her 10th rebound to complete the triple-double with 1:24 remaining. “We knew (Dillard) was going to come in and she was going to be their best player and she was going to be a weapon that could potentially have beaten us.
“But I think overall we did a good job and we definitely did eliminate some of their other weapons and had her do what she does game in and game out.”
Maite Cazorla, who finished with 15 points, made two three-pointers during a 10-2 run to start the second half to give the Ducks some separation.
Ionescu missed her first five field-goal attempts before knocking down a three-pointer at the end of the third quarter to make the score 80-60.
“I think it just shows we have great players and we can all step up and produce when we need to,” Hebard said of beating a quality opponent despite Ionescu’s cold night shooting and the hot mess of turnovers. “It gives us a big confidence boost knowing that we have a lot of different threats we can use throughout the season.”
The Ducks shot 66.7 percent from the field and went 11-for-11 at the free-throw line to get out to a 26-16 lead after the first quarter.
Lydia Giomi picked up her third foul early in the second quarter, and Hebard was whistled for her second personal with 6:12 remaining in the half, which did not sit well with the fervent crowd of 5,205.
Satou Sabally picked up the slack by scoring 13 of her 20 points in the first half, including some interior baskets.
“We went small a little bit with Boley and Satou at the four and five spots. We haven’t done that yet,” Graves said. “We got beat a little bit on the boards at the other end, but I thought that was a pretty good group.
“That’s five players that can shoot threes on the court.”
Oregon finished the game 50 percent (12-for-24) on three-pointers and 89.5 percent (34-for-38) at the free-throw line.
A three-pointer by Dillard got the visitors within nine points and another three-pointer by Autumn Jones cut Oregon’s lead to 44-39.
But Sabally answered immediately with a three-pointer, and a left-handed hook shot in the lane by Morgan Yaeger gave the Ducks a 49-39 cushion at halftime.
All nine of Oregon’s healthy players logged at least nine minutes with eight of them scoring, including all five starters in double figures.
“I’m comfortable with all nine of our players,” Graves said. “People are always concerned about our number of players, but you know what? They can all play, they can all helps us. I don’t have any worries.”