SEATTLE — Sabrina Ionescu scored a career-high 36 points and No. 6 Oregon won its first Pac-12 Conference tournament title beating No. 16 Stanford 77-57 on Sunday night.
Playing in its first conference tournament final, the Ducks looked every bit the part of a premier team heading into the upcoming NCAA tournament. Ionescu was the star, as the Ducks (30-4) avenged one of their two regular-season losses in conference play.
Ionescu, who was the Pac-12 player of the year, was brilliant early, scoring 12 points in the first quarter. She took over late in the third quarter as Oregon held a double-digit lead most of the second half. Ionescu scored 19 points in the second half.
Alanna Smith led Stanford (22-10) with 17 points, but Brittany McPhee struggled and finished with just 12 points. McPhee had 33 points in the only regular season meeting between the two teams, but picked up two fouls early and never got into the flow of the offense. Stanford won the only regular season meeting between the sides, knocking off the Ducks in Eugene by rallying from a nine-point halftime deficit and outscoring Oregon 46-24 in the second half.
Ionescu set a championship game record for points scored, hitting 14 of 24 shots, including four 3-pointers, the last of which set a career-high for points. Her 3 from the baseline with 6:17 remaining gave Oregon 19-point lead and the Ducks coasted the rest of the way.
Satou Sabally added 12 points and Ruthy Hebard finished with 11 points and nine rebounds for Oregon.
The Ducks barely reached the final, needing a 10-0 run to close the game in its 65-62 win against No. 9 UCLA in the semifinals. But they looked the part of a champion in the title game. Ionescu, who had been quiet for nearly an entire quarter, scored 11 of the final 13 points of the third quarter for the Ducks and Oregon went to the fourth quarter with a 54-43 lead. Stanford never got any closer in the final 10 minutes.
Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said no decision has been made on the future location of the Pac-12 women’s tournament. KeyArena is scheduled to undergo a two-year remodel with construction expected to begin by the end of 2018. Scott said the hope was to have an announcement on a site before this year’s tournament, but a decision should happen in the next few months.
Stanford: The Cardinal lost in the tournament final for just the third time in 15 trips to the championship game. Stanford lost to Arizona State in 2002 and UCLA in 2006 in the finals. Stanford won the title last year as the No. 2 seed, knocking off top-seeded Oregon State in the final.
Oregon: The Ducks probably don’t have a shot at a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, but winning both the regular season and conference tournament titles should assure Oregon of a chance to stay out West. The regional is in Spokane, Washington, and would be a friendly environment as Oregon coach Kelly Graves previously coached at Gonzaga.