Boley scores carer-high 32 points, Ionescu notches triple-double, Hebard returns to lineup in regular-season home finale
Stop, hammer time.
No. 2 Oregon welcomed Ruthy Hebard back to the lineup and ended its two-game losing streak with an emphatic 96-78 victory over USC on Sunday at Matthew Knight Arena.
Sabrina Ionescu extended her NCAA record for career triple-doubles to 17 with 13 points, 13 assists and 12 rebounds, and Erin Boley scored a career-high 32 points to lead the offensive resurgence.
Hebard, the “hammer” coach Kelly Graves said was missing during the second half of the Civil War loss in Corvallis and during the collapse on Friday night against UCLA, returned from her right knee injury to score 13 points on 5-for-6 shooting with eight rebounds in 16 minutes.
“I think it just felt normal, it felt like another game for us,” said Ionescu, whose seventh triple-double during her junior campaign sets a new NCAA single-season record. “We weren’t really lacking anything. I mean, Ruthy came out and had a monster game inside and was on limited minutes and not necessarily at her best tonight.
“I think (playing) helped her mentally, I think that helped us mentally to just get back into the normal flow of things.”
The Ducks (25-3, 14-2) remain one game ahead of No. 7 Stanford and No. 12 Oregon State in the Pac-12 standings with two games remaining in the regular season.
Oregon can clinch at least a share of the title and the No. 1 seed at the conference tournament with a victory at Arizona or Arizona State next weekend or another outright championship with a sweep.
“We’ve had some adversity,” said Graves, whose team let a 22-point lead slip away during the stunning 74-69 loss to UCLA without Hebard. “We’d love to have that game back, otherwise this would be a bigger celebration today.
“It’s just going to make us stay focused for another weekend to finish this thing out.”
Oti Gildon started alongside fellow senior Maite Cazorla in their final regular-season home game. The respected classmates have now experienced 105 wins together, the most by any players in program history.
“We didn’t have this many (fans) when I was a freshman. Thanks for riding with us,” Gildon said during her address to the crowd of 8,232, most of which stuck around for the postgame speeches. “We’re not done yet.”
Gildon scored six points and grabbed three rebounds. Cazorla had nine points, two assists and no turnovers in 23 minutes.
“My four years have been amazing,” said Cazorla, whose family traveled from Spain to watch her play. “From not knowing any English and having about 1,000 fans, to now averaging about 8,000.”
Hebard took the floor to open the second half and promptly scored an inside bucket to begin a 10-0 run for the Ducks. Boley’s 3-pointer finished the spurt and made the score 50-36.
“Truth be told, she wanted Oti to start the game because it’s Oti’s senior night and that’s the kind of person that Ruthy is,” Graves said. “I thought in the second half, we’re just used to having that lineup out, and it proved to be the right decision because we got off to a much better start in that second half.”
Boley made two more 3-pointers, and Taylor Chavez added another deep ball with twos seconds remaining in the third quarter to extend the lead to 71-53.
After three more triples by Boley, followed by an old-fashioned three-point play by Satou Sabally, the Ducks had a 91-65 cushion with 4:31 remaining.
Boley finished 8-for-11 (72.7 percent) behind the arc and 11-for-18 (61.1 percent) from the field.
“It’s always nice to come out and have a good feel, especially after the loss on Friday,” Boley said.
Oregon, which struggled offensively during the losses to the Beavers and Bruins, shot 64.3 percent in the second half and were 14-for-24 (58.3 percent) on 3-pointers for the game.
“We just haven’t been shooting well. I think the ball has been sticking a little bit in our hands and we’ve played one-on-one a little bit too much the past couple weeks,” Graves said. “Maybe that was the nature of the defense, but I thought our focus was to move the ball. We were so fluid offensively, even when (USC) stuck with us for a little while.
“But you’ve got to play 40 minutes, as we found out the other night.”
The Trojans (15-12, 5-11) made six of their first nine shots and led 18-14 after Mariya Moore rattled in a 3-pointer.
Hebard checked in and immediately drew a loud ovation and foul on the other end. She made one free throw and a basket to get the Ducks within 22-21.
Oregon took a brief lead on a left-handed layup by Ionescu, but a 3-pointer by Desiree Caldwell gave the Trojans a 27-25 lead at the end of the first quarter.
The Ducks opened the second quarter with a 12-1 run capped with a floater by Chavez.
The Trojans went nine minutes, 44 seconds without a field goal until a 3-pointer by Minyon Moore with 1:38 remaining in the first half.
USC was 1-for-5 on 3-pointers in the second quarter and 9-for-23 (39.1 percent) for the game.
“We were a little bit more focused on defense in the second quarter,” said Boley, who had four rebounds and three steals. “We were able to get more stops. We obviously knew they were making shots and that made our effort to slow down that 3-point shot in the second quarter.”
Oregon has its hammer back with the calendar flipping to March for what could be a another championship-clinching road trip to the desert.
“This came at just the right time,” Graves said. “We appreciate the timing of it.”