Sabrina Ionescu and the Ducks will be facing their Dream Team.
The Oregon women’s basketball team, which opens the 2019-20 season ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press poll for the first time, hosts the U.S. Women’s National Team in an exhibition Saturday at Matthew Knight Arena (4 p.m., Pac-12 Networks).
This will be the only time all season the Ducks, coming off the program’s first Final Four appearance, will be underdogs on their home court.
Even Ionescu — arguably the biggest name in NCAA hoops, male or female, this season — will be a little in awe competing against some of the legendary names wearing red, white and blue.
“Yeah, for sure, I’m 100 percent going to be starstruck,” Ionescu said. “Especially when some of those (players) — Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi — come out onto the floor.
“I’m just going to be excited that I can share the same floor with them.”
The national team improved to 3-0 on its college tour with a 93-63 victory at No. 6 Texas A&M on Thursday night.
Team USA previously beat No. 3 Stanford (95-80) and No. 7 Oregon State (81-58).
Oregon, the two-time defending Pac-12 champion, will try to provide another test for the Americans as they prepare to go after a seventh Olympic gold medal at the 2020 Games in Tokyo.
“We’re going to get their best shot,” coach Kelly Graves said. “We are the number one ranked team in the nation right now, for what that’s worth. It means nothing. Number two, we’ll have the biggest crowd. We have some high-profile players that have been in that WNBA conversation, so they might want to make a point there.
“We’ll see. I’m anticipating a heck of a battle.”
Team USA outrebounded Texas A&M 54-30 and held the Aggies to 37.1% shooting from the field. Nneka Ogwumike and Skylar Diggins-Smith led the way on the offensive end with 19 points each.
Oregon State only trailed 36-31 at halftime before Team USA shot 70.4% in the second half to pull away.
Stanford only trailed 68-62 at the end of the third quarter before the national team shifted gears to close the Cardinal out.
“We’re going to play it as a serious basketball game because it is. We don’t want to get embarrassed,” Graves said. “We’ll go out and play the best that we can, and we’re working towards that.
“I know our team is excited. It’s our first chance to go public and it’s (Team USA’s) fourth game together. The advantage is to them.”
Ionescu, the NCAA’s all-time leader with 18 career triple-doubles, put the WNBA on hold to return for her senior season.
The reigning Wade Trophy and Wooden Award winner averaged 19.9 points, 8.2 assists and 7.4 rebounds last season.
Oregon also returns starters Ruthy Hebard, Satou Sabally and Erin Boley from last year’s 33-win team. USC graduate transfer Minyon Moore will help replace Maite Cazorla.
“I think they’re going to come in with something to prove,” Ionescu said of the national team. “Obviously there’s talk about us being the top team in the country. They’re going to come in and give us their best game and give us their best shot.”
A’ja Wilson, who averaged 20.0 points and 7.5 rebounds during Team USA’s wins over Stanford and Oregon State, will not play against Oregon due to a death in her family.
But former Washington star Kelsey Plum, who owns the women’s NCAA record for career points (3,527), is back in the rotation.
Ionescu and the Ducks upset the Huskies at the Pac-12 Tournament in Seattle during Plum’s senior season.
“The Oregon-Husky rivalry runs deep,” Plum said after Team USA’s win over Texas A&M. “I don’t think I’ll get booed, but I don’t think they’ll be necessarily cheering for me (laughs). I’m excited though. I know a lot of people coming, so it should be fun. My sister was a Duck, so I have to try to stay a little bit neutral. But at the same time, I bleed purple.”
Graves anticipates 6-foot-6 forward Lydia Giomi (broken nose) being able to play. Texas transfer Sedona Prince (leg) is still recovering from her injury and awaiting the NCAA to rule on her request for immediate eligibility.
Hebard, who averaged 16.1 points and 9.1 rebounds as a junior, will have to deal with a wave of elite post players.
Ogwumike, another former Pac-12 star, scored 23 points on 10-for-12 shooting in her return to Stanford.
“Everyone’s been talking about it on campus. We’re really excited to get back on the court at Matthew Knight and play in front of our fans,” Hebard said. “I’m just going to hopefully watch them, learn from them and maybe talk to them after the game. When we’re playing, just go as hard as I can.”
Oregon will open the regular season against Northeastern at 3 p.m. Monday at Matthew Knight Arena.
Win or lose, Saturday will be a dream start for the Ducks to a season of great expectations.
“I think as long as we’re getting better and learn something from that game,” Ionescu said of the Ducks’ expectations for the exhibition. “There’s going to be so much for us to learn on the offensive and the defensive end, just how they carry themselves as the top athletes in the world.
“So just being able to talk to them a little bit before and seeing how they execute and play and try our hold ourselves to that standard.”