Sabrina Ionescu and the Ducks played like they had a plane to catch.
The reigning national player of the year finished with 21 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds in under three quarters of action to lead the No. 3 Oregon women’s basketball team to a 89-51 victory over Kansas State on Saturday at Matthew Knight Arena.
The Ducks (10-1) were excused by a happy Kelly Graves to travel home for the holidays after improving to- 6-0 at home with what the coach described as their best win of the season to date.
“I just thought we played well in a lot of different phases,” Graves said. “I thought our defense was on point. We shot the ball well overall. That’s one of the best rebounding teams in the country, and we out-rebounded them significantly.”
Oregon had a 44-36 edge on the glass and held the Wildcats (5-5) to 31.3% shooting from the field.
Ionescu extended her NCAA record for career triple-doubles to 21 after grabbing her 10th rebound and then knocking down a jumper to make the score 66-39 with 1:25 remaining in the third quarter.
Graves checked the senior superstar out of the game moments later so Ionescu could cheer on the reserves throughout the fourth quarter safely from the bench.
“Yeah, I feel good,” the ultra-competitive Ionescu said when asked if she felt fresher this season playing fewer minutes.
During Monday’s 84-41 win over UC Riverside, Ionescu had 16 points, a career-high 18 rebounds and 12 assists.
The triple-double watch is almost an afterthought now for the Ducks, but the statistical feat still makes all of the fans wearing No. 20 jerseys happy.
“I think she is feeling better. She is,” Graves said of Ionescu. “The fact that she’s got some depth, can rest, is really helping. She’s not focusing on (triple-doubles) any more. She’s just playing better.”
Satou Sabally, who did not suit up for Monday’s game due to injury, returned to the starting lineup, finishing with 14 points on 6-for-8 shooting and eight rebounds.
The smooth 6-foot-4 junior didn’t practice all week.
“I thought she looked awesome for having not practiced in nearly a week,” Graves said. “To see her come out and do that is really great.”
Erin Boley bounced back from an 0-for-7 shooting performance in the previous game with 18 points on 7-for-10 shooting.
“The past two games we’ve had two big wins,” Boley said. “So I’m just moving on, playing hard, doing what I can to help the team.”
Oregon led 51-31 after a teardrop in the lane by Ionescu.
Sabally shook off some early rust by completing an and-one and making a reverse layup in the third quarter.
The Wildcats took a timeout to try to stop the bleeding after another difficult field goal by Sabally extended the lead to 60-37.
“Our bench stepped up tremendously, especially early on in the game and then in the fourth quarter,” Ionescu said. “Obviously with Satou back, I thought she played great for having sat out for a while. Then Erin shooting it, Ruthy (Hebard) doing well inside and Minyon (Moore) as well.
“I think we’re going to go on break on a good note.”
Back-to-back hoops by reserve forwards Lydia Giomi and Lucy Cochrane and 3-pointer by Morgan Yaeger made the score 81-46 midway through the fourth quarter.
Jaz Shelley, who had 32 points and set the program single game record with 10 made 3-pointers against UC Riverside, became the 10th Oregon player to score against Kansas State with a jumper in garbage time.
The Ducks led 38-27 at the intermission after Boley scored 16 points on 6-for-7 shooting from the field, including 4-for-4 on 3s, to lead the offense.
Peyton Williams scored Kansas State’s first 10 points of the second quarter to give the visitors a 22-20 lead.
Boley knocked down two 3s during a 14-0 run in the second quarter.
Ionescu’s first shot was a rare airball, but the unflappable guard knocked down her next jumper and made a pair of free throws to give the Ducks a 10-4 lead at the first media timeout.
The Wildcats clawed back to within 12-10 on a basket by Angela Harris before Ionescu scored to extend the lead to four points at the end of the first quarter.
Williams finished with 20 points and eight rebounds and Ayoka Lee added 14 points and 10 rebounds, but Kansas State’s two top-notch post players didn’t get much help.
Oregon held the Wildcats to 1-for-12 on 3s and only turned the ball over nine times (once after halftime).
The players will return to Eugene on Dec. 27 before an exhibition game against Corban University on Dec. 28.
Then the Ducks will focus on defending their back-to-back Pac-12 championships.
“I feel like we have a lot of improvement yet to make. I don’t think we’ve played anywhere near our best basketball,” Graves said. “We’re going to continue to get better and better and better. We want to be playing our best basketball in March and April. That’s what I concern myself most with.”
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