Kelly Graves expects the defending Pac-12 champions to get everybody’s best shot this season.
The rivals from Seattle certainly came out swinging and had a strong counterpunch.
In a game of wild momentum swings, No. 5 Oregon closed the fourth quarter on an 18-5 run to outlast Washington 84-71 on Friday in front of a crowd of 6,013 at Matthew Knight Arena.
Erin Boley scored a career-high 28 points to lead a balanced effort from the starters, who all logged over 33 minutes of court time to make sure the Ducks (12-1, 1-0) opened defense of their title with a win.
“It feels great to just to play in my first Pac-12 game,” Boley, who sat out last season after transferring from Notre Dame, said after making 10 of her 14 field-goal attempts, including an 8-for-12 performance from three-point distance. “I attribute a lot of that to being surrounded by a lot of great players that are able to give me the ball. I’m open because they have to take away our other great scorers.”
Sabrina Ionescu had 20 points and 10 assists, Satou Sabally had 19 points and 12 rebounds and Ruthy Hebard added 11 points and 11 rebounds.
Boley’s previous high of 24 points came during Oregon’s lone loss at Michigan State.
“We knew we had to really bring it,” Boley said. “You have to step it up once you get to conference play. I just started off strong, playing well.”
The Huskies (7-7, 0-2), who already dropped their Pac-12 opener to rival Washington State last Sunday, lost despite getting 26 points from guard Alexis Griggsby and 23 points from guard Amber Melgoza.
Griggsby’s previous career high was 12 points. Melgoza, already an established star in the conference, scored 23 of her 31 points in the fourth quarter of Washington’s 94-83 loss last season in Eugene.
“(Griggsby) has been kind of a role kid,” Graves noted. “She got open a few times and hit some contested shots. They made some tough shots tonight. They shoot some tough shots and they made a lot of them tonight.”
Oregon led 66-58 after Maite Cazorla deftly found Boley in the corner for a three-pointer, but Washington answered with a 7-0 spurt capped with a wild three-point play by Melgoza.
Boley’s eighth make from behind the arc gave Oregon a 72-65 cushion with 3:56 remaining.
“We told ourselves we need to stop, score, stop, and that’s what we did at the end of the game," Sabally said. "We played better in the end.”
Washington led 41-38 early in the third quarter before Cazorla made a timely three-pointer to start a 17-0 eruption by the Ducks.
Sabally made a three-pointer and then scored on a transition layup to prompt a timeout by Washington coach Jody Wynn.
Boley splashed a three-pointer, and Ionescu capped the surge with a jumper to make the score 55-41.
Melgoza scored 10 points in the third quarter to close Washington’s deficit to 57-51.
“I feel like they shot really well. We were kind of struggling in our defense,” Sabally said after the Ducks allowed Washington to shoot 46.9 percent from the field. “We never really had our flow in the defense and it was kind of hard for us to get our fast-break points because we didn’t get as many stops.”
Boley and Griggsby, who are both sophomores, put on a shooting clinic on opposite ends of the court in the first half, combining to make 10 of 14 three-pointers.
Boley had 19 points on 7-for-9 shooting with five three-pointers, and Griggsby was 8-for-11 from the field with five three-pointers at the break.
The Huskies fell into a 17-point hole by Boley’s early offensive onslaught before Griggsby capped an 18-0 run by the visitors to give Washington its first lead, 24-23, with 7:30 remaining in the second quarter.
“It was a little roller coaster,” Graves said. “We’re going to definitely make sure we clean that up and play tougher defense for 40 minutes. (Washington’s) a good team that’s hungry. They play us well.”
Griggsby scored 17 points in the second quarter alone, including a three-pointer with 27.3 seconds left to get the Huskies within 38-37 at the intermission.
Boley made a three-pointer on the first possession and had 14 points before the first media timeout to stake the Ducks to an 18-6 head start.
Another three-point by Boley extended the lead to 23-6 before the Huskies closed the frame with six unanswered points. The 6-foot-2 forward had 19 points in the first quarter and missed her only shot in the second quarter.
“It was just coming to her, and our kids were smart enough to feed the hot hand,” Graves said. “Good for her. She’s a great young woman and a great competitor.”