Sabrina Ionescu made some SportsCenter-worthy highlights.
But Oregon’s best player and her coach felt like her desperation 3-pointer from about 30 feet and her airball from the bench were better suited for America’s Funniest Home Videos.
The second-seeded Ducks overwhelmed No. 15 Portland State 78-40 in the first round of the women’s NCAA Tournament on Friday night at Matthew Knight Arena.
The margin of victory allowed Ionescu and Kelly Graves to laugh about her dazzling heave to beat the shot clock and her technical foul for taking a shot after she had been subbed out.
“The one that went in, I tripped after,” Ionescu said. “And so they’re kind of just both like bloopers, to be honest.”
Oregon will play No. 10 Indiana, a 69-65 winner over No. 7 Texas, at 6 p.m. Sunday with a chance to advance to the Sweet 16 of the Portland Regional at Moda Center.
Graves said his talented cast needed to get their “mojo back” after the loss to Stanford in the Pac-12 Tournament title game.
The Ducks (30-4) responded with a 50-23 rebounding edge and by outscoring the Vikings (25-8) 38-8 in the paint.
“I think that shows what we’re capable of if we come in mentally focused. We can take take teams out of their game,” Ionescu said after finishing with 12 points, eight assists and five rebounds. “We weren’t playing fundamentally perfect defense, but we were flying around, we were aggressive, we got steals, we got tips that led to easy transition baskets and just fueled our offense.
“So I think that’s what we’re going to have to do in this next game and hopefully in Portland.”
Ruthy Hebard scored 22 points on 9-for-13 shooting with 11 rebounds, and Satou Sabally scored 21 points on 8-for-12 shooting with 16 rebounds.
Both players were dealing with injuries in Las Vegas and said a week off rejuvenated them.
“I think so far this is the best my knee has felt,” said Hebard, who logged only 27 minutes of court time against Portland State. “The week off helped a lot, so hopefully it just keeps on getting better from here.”
Graves said when Sabally attacks the glass Oregon is “a different team.” Her previous career-high for rebounds was 12 earlier this season against Washington.
“I wanted to be aggressive. I mean, it could be our last game,” Sabally said. “I just want to be 100 percent on all the boards and crash every time. It was really important for our team.”
Ionescu’s rainbow to beat the shot-clock buzzer gave Oregon a 49-23 lead early in the second half. The Pac-12 champions led 63-34 by the end of the third quarter and 78-38 when Graves took his stars out of the game.
Oregon scored 15 points off 17 Portland State turnovers and 18 second-chance points off 20 offensive rebounds.
“I kind of felt it already this week in practice. We were all dialed in, we were all super focused and really excited to play this game,” Sabally said. “Today’s game was just like translating from our last practice. I think we’re all so mentally focused and engaged and looking forward to the next game. The sky is the limit for us right now.”
The Vikings took their only lead (3-2) on a 3-pointer by Ashley Bolston and tied the score 7-7 and 13-13 before the Ducks were able to get some separation late in the first quarter with all three of their healthy bench players on the floor.
After four buckets in the paint by Hebard, sophomore forward Lydia Giomi added two free throws to give Oregon a 22-15 advantage at the end of the first quarter.
“We’re going to need her,” Graves said if Giomi, who finished with seven points and four rebounds in 16 minutes. “Ruthy at some point is maybe going to get tired or get a crazy foul or whatever, and we’re going to need Lydia to step in, and she did.”
The Vikings were held scoreless for 5 minutes, 32 seconds in the second quarter and trailed 43-23 at the intermission.
Hebard and Sabally scored 14 points each on a combined 13-for-18 from the field in the first half. The Ducks shot 60 percent (18-for-30) from the field.
Four of Portland State’s seven made field goals were 3-pointers but the visitors shot 30.4 percent overall in the first half.
Bolston led the Vikings, who won the Big Sky Tournament to earn an automatic berth into the field, with 19 points.
“Going into this game we knew Oregon was a great team. I mean, that’s a Final Four potential team we played tonight,” Portland State coach Lynn Kennedy said. “Give them all of the credit, they came out and were well prepared and well coached.”