Hombres

Oregon upsets 2-seed Duke to reach first Sweet 16.

Posted in sports | March 2017

Injuries have been a theme of the NCAA tournament so far and Duke was bitten in the opening round when point guard Kyra Lambert went down with a torn ACL. South Carolina and Notre Dame were able to survive major injuries in the second round. The Blue Devils could not. Without Lambert, Duke was upset by No. 10 seed Oregon 74-65, despite playing at home in Durham, North Carolina. The Ducks advanced to the first Sweet 16 in program history.

How the game was won: Duke has excelled all season at shooting the 3-point shot: The Blue Devils ranked fifth in the country in accuracy and second in 3-point field goal defense. Losing Lambert seemed to hurt the Blue Devils in both areas. Oregon made them pay.

The Ducks are the fourth-most accurate 3-point shooting team in the nation and made 9-of-26 attempts (34.6 percent). Oregon, which starts three freshmen and a sophomore, regularly showed patience against the Duke matchup zone. Smart decisions and outstanding ball movement resulted in plenty of open looks both from deep and inside to 6-foot-4 Ruthy Hebard. Without their defensive leader in Lambert the Blue Devils never adjusted.

Duke also couldn’t get enough open opportunities of its own and shot just 2-of-15 from behind the arc. Most notably, Rebecca Greenwell, a 41.1 percent 3-point shooter, was 0-for-6.

Player of the game: This was a team effort that came largely from executing a game plan and taking advantage of a Duke team with just eight players. Maite Cazorla and Lexi Bando hit the most back-breaking shots, and freshman point guard Sabrina Ionescu ran the Ducks supremely, with just one turnover in the biggest game of her life. But it was Hebard who controlled the game from the lane and was the best player on the floor. She finished with 20 points and 15 of Oregon’s 33 rebounds.

Turning point: Consecutive 3-pointers by Bando and Cazorla early in the fourth quarter capped a 13-2 run that began late in the third and gave Oregon its biggest lead at 59-44. Duke closed the gap with a 7-0 run, but then Bando, the nation’s most accurate 3-point shooter, hit another from deep to get the lead back to 62-51 — and the Blue Devils didn’t have another run in them.

Stat of the game: Greenwell didn’t just have a tough night from 3-point range. The junior finished with just six points on 3-of-11 shooting from the field and didn’t score her first points until just 4:07 remained in the game. Without Lambert, Duke could not survive one of its stars providing so little production. Lexie Brown, with 25 points, was the only Blue Devil to score in double figures.

What’s next: The Ducks, in their first NCAA tournament since 2005, are in the Sweet 16 for the first time. Coach Kelly Graves is there for the ninth time, having taken Gonzaga for the other eight appearances, including an Elite Eight in 2011. Oregon will meet No. 3 seed Maryland on Saturday in Bridgeport.

Before that, the Oregon players have a 3 a.m. flight back to Eugene and exams to take on Tuesday.

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