After making quick work of Colorado on Saturday in Boulder, the Ducks arrived in Storrs, Connecticut, at about 2 a.m. Sunday.
The history of the Connecticut women’s basketball team is omnipresent in the small university town.
Coach Kelly Graves’ hotel room featured a portrait of Breanna Stewart in colonial garb hanging next to another painting of Ray Allen.
No. 3 Oregon will try to beat No. 4 UConn for the first time when the powerhouse programs meet in a marquee nonconference game on Monday at the Harry A. Gamble Pavilion (4 p.m., ESPN2).
“They have all the advantages,” Graves said of counterpart Geno Auriemma’s Huskies. “They’re playing at home and this is their first game since Thursday. We’re playing our third road game game in five days.”
However, the Ducks (19-2, 9-1 Pac-12) do have their own legendary players in Sabrina Ionescu and Ruthy Hebard. The two senior stars made even more history together during the 101-53 victory over Colorado.
Ionescu extended her NCAA career triple-double record to 23 with 24 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds in 27 minutes.
“She is definitely locked in, and you could see that in both games,” Graves said of Ionescu, who had 10 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds during Thursday’s 90-63 win at Utah. “But her teammates are locked in, too. Everybody played well and contributed.
“I like how we’re playing. We’re starting to realize what we’re capable when we play like this.”
Hebard broke the program record for career made field goals with 888 and counting, passing Alison Lang (883, 1980-84). She is averaging 15.5 points and 10.5 rebounds on the trip.
“I know Ruthy is not the type to get jealous of her teammates’ accomplishments, but she is the unsung hero,” Graves said of Hebard’s remarkable career. “She will always be linked with Sabrina, like Stockton and Malone. They’ve helped make each other great as sidekicks for four years.”
Ionescu and Hebard were true freshmen when their first NCAA Tournament run together came to an end with a 90-52 loss to UConn in the Elite Eight in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
Oregon made its first Final Four appearance last season, while the Huskies were also in Tampa, Fla., making their 20th Final Four appearance.
Both teams lost in the national semifinals preventing another postseason meeting. Monday’s matchup could be a 2020 Final Four preview.
“You can look ahead too much,” UConn guard Crystal Dangerfield said after her team’s 80-50 victory over Cincinnati on Thursday. “We could have easily lost thinking about Oregon.”
Graves is also pleased with his team’s focus as the Ducks followed up the emotional sweep of Oregon State last weekend with the lopsided road wins over Utah and Colorado to remain on top of the conference standings.
Ionescu and most of the starters did not play in the fourth quarter against the Buffaloes.
“That’s what I’ve been saying the whole week is those two games were more important to reach our ultimate goals, which includes winning the Pac-12,” Graves said. “I thought we played well at both ends in both games.”
Satou Sabally had 17 points, and Minyon Moore added 15 points against Colorado as the Ducks improved to 18-0 when leading the opposition in assists and 16-0 when shooting a better percentage from 3-point range.
The Huskies (19-1, 9-0 American), who are 3-0 all-time against Oregon and 66-32 (67.3%) all-time against top-five teams, suffered their lone defeat this season to Baylor 74-58 on Jan. 9 at home.
UConn is 128-0 against its American Conference peers since joining the conference. Since the 1993-94 season, the Huskies are 290-25 (92.2%) in nonconference play.
“There’s no question they have great players and they always have,” Graves said. “They also have that mystique.”
But so does the Ionescu-led Oregon program. The reigning national player of the year has been on a mission to get the Ducks to the same level of dominance as UConn since she arrived in Eugene.
“We talked about it in the locker room and we were in there trying to figure out our mistakes, and then I said, ‘Guys, we should just live in this moment,’“ Ionescu said after the 38-point loss to the Huskies that ended her freshman season. “It doesn’t come around often, and just enjoy it. Enjoy playing against the No. 1 team in the country.
“And we’re going to try to do what they do because I think we can become the next UConn here at Oregon.”
Follow Ryan Thorburn on Twitter @RGDuckFootball and email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. For more Oregon sports coverage, visit DuckSports.com.