When Erin Boley gets going, there might not be a better shooter in the country, let alone a better team than Oregon — just ask head coach Kelly Graves.
"When she's having a night like that, it changes who we are and we become very difficult to defend," Graves said of Boley. "And she doesn't need any time to get that thing off — it's incredible how quick her release is."
Boley ignited an Oregon offense that had been struggling of late, knocking down eight three-pointers en route to a career-high 32 points as Oregon beat USC 96-78 on Sunday afternoon, snapping a two-game losing streak.
"It's always nice to have a good feel, especially after the loss on Friday," Boley said. "We had a good rhythm today."
Much like Boley said, the Ducks had a great rhythm offensively, finishing the game 31-of-59 (52.5-percent) from the floor and 14-of-24 (58.3-percent) from beyond the arc. Two weeks ago, the Ducks were the nation’s highest scoring team, averaging over 90 points a game, but averaged just 69.3 points over their last three games.
One of the biggest differences for Oregon, besides Boley’s shooting, was the play of Sabrina Ionescu. Despite struggling the past couple of games, Ionescu never lost confidence in herself nor her ability to play basketball, and it showed Sunday as she finished with her 17th career triple-double, posting 13 points, 12 rebounds and 13 assists in three quarters of play.
"I think she played a lot more free tonight and was able to do a little bit of everything," Graves said. "Sabrina was really focused and motivated today."
The triple-double is her seventh of the season, a NCAA record while adding to her NCAA-record for career triple-doubles.
"It just felt normal," Ionescu said. "It felt like a regular game for us and we weren't lacking anything.”
Although Oregon got the win in the end, it sure wasn’t easy in the first half, especially the first quarter.
Mariya Moore (team-high 30 points) scored USC’s first eight points, giving the Trojans a quick 10-8 lead. A three-pointer by Desiree Caldwell capped a 5-0 Trojans run to end the first quarter as the Ducks found themselves trailing 27-25, giving up four three-pointers through the first 10 minutes.
Oregon seized control in the second quarter, beginning on a 9-0 run that kept USC scoreless until 4:45 remained in the half. The lead expanded to 10 with under two minutes to go before the Trojans closed the half on an 8-3 run, giving the Ducks a 40-36 advantage at the break.
The Ducks blew the game open in the third quarter, outscoring USC 31-17. Boley was sensational, finishing with 13 of her 22 second half points in the frame, including three three-pointers. Oregon finished the quarter on a 14-5 run, capped by Taylor Chavez’s three-pointer which ended up being the 10th assist for Ionescu.
Oregon got a boost with the return of Ruthy Hebard, the reigning national power forward of the year. Hebard, who injured her knee against Oregon State six days ago, missed Friday’s UCLA game with a bone bruise but because there was no structural damage, was able to play Sunday while wearing a brace. She finished with 13 points and eight rebounds in 16 minutes off the bench.
"I thought it was a huge psychological boost," Graves said. "She is such an important player, and I think just the most dominating player in the conference.”
The Ducks will now travel south to close out the Pac-12’s regular season — win both games against Arizona and Arizona State and Oregon will be the Pac-12’s regular season champs and earn the top seed in conference tournament.
Oregon faces Arizona on March 1 with tipoff being set for 7 p.m.