LAS VEGAS — The Ducks were unable to successfully double-down on championships at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
Top-seeded Oregon lost 64-57 to No. 2 Stanford in the Pac-12 Women's Basketball Tournament title game Sunday night, one month after embarrassing the Cardinal by 40 points at Maples Pavilion.
The Ducks (29-4), who also ran away from Stanford in last year’s conference tournament final in Seattle (77-57), must now wait until March 18 when the NCAA Tournament bracket is released to see if they will still be placed in the Portland Regional.
“We didn’t have any fire,” Sabrina Ionescu said after playing all 125 minutes over three games in three days. “They came out, and you could tell they really wanted to beat us.
"We were on our heels for most of the game. We fought back, but we didn’t fight back hard enough and long enough to win this game.”
Senior forward Alanna Smith, who was held to six points on 3-for-14 shooting in the first meeting, finished with 20 points and 14 rebounds to lead Stanford’s atonement.
“When you take a loss like that, you have no choice but to learn from it,” Smith, who was named the tournament’s most valuable player, said after celebrating with her teammates in the confetti storm. “So we were happy that we got to play Oregon because we wanted another chance at them.
“I think just from the result and how we’re all feeling right now, it just shows how badly we wanted it.”
DiJonai Carrington made a tough basket over Ionescu and then stole the ball from Maite Cazorla for a transition layup to give the Cardinal a 55-51 lead. The junior guard finished with 22 points and nine rebounds.
“I think she played harder,” Cazorla said of Carrington, who led the Cardinal with 13 points in the lone regular-season meeting. “We knew that she is a great player, she rebounds a lot, and we didn’t box out. We didn’t do our job.”
A 3-pointer by Kiana Williams made the score 58-52 before Ionescu ended an Oregon field-goal drought at 4 minutes, 23 seconds.
The Cardinal (28-4), which finished a game behind Oregon for the regular-season title, went 6-for-6 at the free-throw line in the final minute to ice the game and make its case to the committee to stay on the West Coast as a No. 1 or No. 2 seed.
“I don’t look at it like, oh, it’s just another trophy or another net or anything like that,” Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said after avenging the most lopsided loss of her career by beating the Ducks to collect her 13th conference tournament championship. “It’s just another great memory. And I’m so proud of these women (Smith and Carrington) and the other women in our locker room.
"Not just for the basketball, which was great today, but for just who they are as people. That’s what makes it really rewarding.”
A floater by Ionescu gave the Ducks a 51-48 lead early in the fourth quarter, but Smith answered with a 3-pointer as the shot clock expired.
Ionescu finished with 27 points, 12 rebounds and five assists to lead the Ducks.
"They didn’t do anything differently, we just weren’t dialed in enough to take them out of their game like we did in that first game," Ionescu said. "We didn’t match it, and that’s what happens."
Ruthy Hebard was held to 13 points and five rebounds. Erin Boley was the only other Oregon player to score in double figures with 10 points.
The Ducks shot 33.9 percent from the field, including 6-for-22 (27.3 percent) on 3-pointers.
“They doubled her, they were really aggressive on Ruthy, didn’t give her a lot of tries, got some blocks,” Satou Sabally said of Stanford’s defense on Hebard, who scored 18 points on 8-for-12 shooting in the previous meeting. “But Ruthy did a great job. She weathered the storm and was still really aggressive and really contributed.”
A 3-pointer by Smith and an inside basket by Maya Dodson gave Stanford its largest lead, 38-24, in the third quarter.
Sabally, who missed her first seven shots, made a layup to get the Ducks within 38-31.
Back-to-back 3-pointers by Sabally and Boley cut the deficit to one point and a pair of free throws by Ionescu gave Oregon its first lead with 51 seconds left in the third quarter.
The Ducks’ were 3-for-5 behind the arc during the 18-3 run while holding the Cardinal to 3-for-14 from the field in the third quarter.
“I thought, OK, this is our time to shine,” Oregon coach Kelly Graves said. “We just didn’t make the plays when we needed to.”
Smith made a driving layup and a 3-pointer to start Stanford’s 8-0 run to open the game.
Ionescu hit 3-pointer and completed a three-point play to cut the deficit to 14-11, but the Ducks shot 23.5 percent (4-for-17) in the first quarter and trailed 18-11.
Smith swatted a 3-point attempt by Morgan Yaeger into the cheap seats to put an exclamation point on Stanford’s early dominance.
A driving layup by Kiana Williams gave the Cardinal a 22-12 lead early in the second quarter and prompted Kelly Graves to call a timeout.
There were no answers for Carrington, who scored two inside buckets to giver her 16 first-half points and extend the lead to 33-24 at the intermission.
Oregon shot 31.3 percent (10-for-32) from the field, including a dreadful 1-for-9 behind the arc, before halftime.
“You could tell they wanted it more,” Cazorla lamented in a somber locker room while Stanford cut down the nets. “They were hungrier.”