The Big Three played more like a Fab Five during the storybook end to the road trip in Storrs, Conn.
The Ducks also have a sixth player, Taylor Chavez, who would be a starter, and perhaps a superstar, on most other teams.
The sophomore guard from Chandler, Ariz., scored 17 points off the bench and helped contain Pac-12 leading scorer Aari McDonald during No. 3 Oregon’s 85-52 victory over No. 12 Arizona on Friday night in front of a crowd of 11,692 at Matthew Knight Arena.
“I’m really happy for Taylor. That’s a big-time player,” coach Kelly Graves said. “She’d be starting on pretty much any team, but she doesn’t care. She finishes a lot of games, and to me that matters more.”
Chavez was the first Oregon player on the court for pregame warmups, grabbing a ball off the rack at 4:38 p.m. to begin shooting with assistant coach Jodie Berry and her sons shagging rebounds.
One of the boys was wearing a No. 20 jersey on what turned out to be another memorable night for Sabrina Ionescu.
Less than three hours later, Chavez hit back-to-back 3-pointers late in the third quarter before Ionescu buried another buzzer-beater to make the score 72-38.
“Just trying to find where I fit in,” Chavez said of her mindset when her number is called. “Our team is flowing offensively, so I just try to hit the open shots I get. I’m really just trying to stick to the scout and get tips and steals and trying to fit in where I can.”
The Ducks (21-2, 10-1) extended their winning streak to nine games, a run that includes six wins over ranked teams and four wins over top-10 teams, including Monday’s 74-56 thrashing of No. 4 UConn.
Ionescu extended her NCAA record for career triple-doubles to 24 after finishing with 15 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists in 32 minutes.
The No. 24, worn by the late Kobe Bryant during the second half of his legendary career with the Los Angeles Lakers, is significant to the reigning national player of the year still mourning her friend’s death.
“Definitely a little bit more emotional for this one,” Ionescu said. “I’d probably be receiving a text at this time with him telling me something, congratulating me, and obviously keeping up with it. But he’s sending me a text in a different way. I definitely can hear him congratulating me and our team.
“I hope I can just stay at 24 for the rest of the year, but I don’t know if that’s going to happen.”
Ruthy Hebard, who made Oregon’s first four field goals of the third quarter, finished with 22 points on 10-for-13 shooting. Satou Sabally continued her stellar junior season with 17 points, 11 rebounds and six assists.
Ionescu completed her triple-double with an assist to Hebard for a layup that extended the lead to 78-47, prompting Graves to call a timeout and remove the dynamic duo with 6:07 remaining.
“I don’t really know what it is about them,” Ionescu said after notching her third triple-double against Arizona. “I was recruited by them and every time we play them they’re giving us their best shot. I obviously have to do the same and our team has to do the same. So we’re always amped up to play them.
“Now they’re one of the best teams in the Pac-12 and one of the best teams in the country, so it’s awesome to see where they’ve come to.”
The Wildcats (18-4, 7-4), who led the Pac-12 and were sixth nationally in scoring defense (52.1 ppg) entering the game, had won five consecutive games since losing to Oregon 71-64 on Jan. 12 in Tucson, Ariz.
It was Arizona’s longest conference winning streak in 20 years.
“I don’t know why we didn’t compete,” Arizona coach Adia Barnes lamented outside the losing locker room. “I felt like we gave up a lot of times. Oregon is really good at home, but the second and third quarters were really painful.”
Chavez, who was averaging 5.9 points, had nine points in 17 minutes in the first half. She also did her part, along with Minyon Moore, to frustrate McDonald, who was averaging 20.8 points but was held to 13 points on 5-for-13 shooting with six assists and seven turnovers.
“We just talked about not letting her get to the free-throw line by penetration and stopping the catch-and-shoots, forcing them to take contested pull-ups,” Chavez said of the defensive game plan. “But at the same time, not letting them get to the rim.”
Oregon led 39-22 at the intermission despite committing 10 turnovers.
"We were joking about it like, is there butter or something on the ball? We were turning it over quite a lot," said Ionescu, who finished with three of her team's 15 turnovers for the game. "We haven’t played at home in awhile and we were all super amped up. We know it’s a big weekend, the crowd was fired up, and we were really excited to play obviously in a big game.
"We needed to settle down a little bit. Once we did our offense got flowing."
McDonald, after missing her first five shots, finally scored to spark an 8-0 spurt to get Arizona within 20-18 with 5:46 remaining in the second quarter.
The Ducks went on a 19-4 run to close the half, which was capped with 3s from Ionescu and Sabally.
Oregon had a 40-24 rebounding edge. Lydia Giomi had five rebounds, including three offensive rebounds, in 13 minutes.
Arizona only had two offensive rebounds the entire game.
“And they got them late,” Graves noted. “One bounced of Lydia’s head.”
Follow Ryan Thorburn on Twitter @RGDuckFootball and email questions to email@example.com. For more Oregon sports coverage, visit DuckSports.com.