Oregon crushed No. 9 Duke’s dream of a perfect home season and a return trip to the Sweet 16 on Monday night.
Freshman forward Ruthy Hebard scored 20 points and grabbed 15 rebounds as the 10th-seeded Ducks upset the second-seeded Blue Devils 74-65 in an NCAA women’s basketball tournament second-round game at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
The loss was the first at home for Duke (28-6) in 18 games this season and kept the Blue Devils from reaching the Sweet 16 for the sixth time in the last eight seasons.
“They had more players step up and play across the board,” Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “They had better balance and they played the full 40.”
It’s the first time a 10th-seeded team has knocked off a No. 2 seed in the NCAA women’s bracket since 2007 when Florida State upset Stanford. And the Ducks (22-13) did it with a starting lineup that features three freshmen, a sophomore and a junior.
“They are a terrific team,” McCallie said. “They are kind of playing against all odds when you think about their ages. But their productivity certainly doesn’t reflect that.”
Oregon (22-13) advances to play fifth-ranked Maryland (32-2) Saturday in Bridgeport, Connecticut, in the regional semifinals.
Playing their first game without starting guard Kyra Lambert, who tore her ACL in Saturday’s 94-31 win over Hampton, the Blue Devils shot just 39 percent and were victimized by Oregon’s balanced offense.
In addition to Hebard’s production inside, sophomore guard Maite Cazorla scored 17 points while junior Lexi Bando added 15. They each made four 3-pointers.
“Kyra was one of our best perimeter defenders so you just have to factor that into our defense,” Duke junior guard Lexie Brown said. “We held them in check at times, and at times we just kind of had breakdowns. That’s all.”
Only five teams had previously shot 40 percent or better against Duke’s matchup zone this season. Notre Dame’s 51.7 percent shooting in the ACC tournament final was the best anyone had shot against Duke this season.
But Oregon found a way to shoot 45 percent with precision passing and strong decision-making against the Blue Devils defense. The Ducks recorded 20 assists on 26 made field goals, with Sabrina Ionescu and Cazorla leading the way with six assists each.
“We wanted to spread them out,” Oregon coach Kelly Graves said. “That matchup zone is something we hadn’t seen this year. Our kids did a great job of kicking it out to the shooters and making that extra pass.”
Brown did her best to keep Duke close as she scored 25 points while grabbing five rebounds and recording six assists.
“I felt Lexie played extremely hard,” McCallie said, “and had a very strong game and attacked and did many, many things out there that needed to be done and sometimes needed to be done by two people and not just one.”
Duke was undone by 38.8 percent shooting, including just 2-of-15 from behind the 3-point line. Junior guard Rebecca Greenwell, who averaged 16.7 points this season, made just 3 of 11 shots and missed all six of her 3-pointers.
“I don’t really have answer for that,” Greenwell said. “They just weren’t going in. They felt good coming out of the hand. I probably just should have just tried to get to the basket more because they weren’t going in. I should have attacked more and tried to get to the line.”
Trailing by five points at halftime, Duke quickly closed the gap as Brown made her first two shots, including Duke’s first 3-pointer of the game. Her 17-foot jumper with 8:32 left in the third quarter sliced Oregon’s lead to 33-31.
But the Ducks reeled off seven consecutive points. The run started when Duke failed to secure a defensive rebound, allowing Bando to drill an open 3-pointer.
Jump shots by Mallory McGwire and Ionescu pushed Oregon’s lead to 40-31 with 6:09 left in the third quarter.
The Ducks led 53-42 after three quarters and pushed their lead to 59-44 with 7:54 left when Bando and Cazorla hit 3-pointers from the left corner on consecutive possessions.
Duke started a comeback when Brown sank a 3-pointer to ignite a 7-0 Blue Devils run.
When Greenwell scored inside off a Brown pass with 4:08 left, Duke had cut Oregon’s lead to 62-55.
After a Oregon shot clock violation, Greenwell had a chance to pull the Blue Devils even closer. But she missed her sixth consecutive 3-pointer of the game.
Duke trailed 31-26 at halftime after shooting just 30 percent over the first 20 minutes. The Blue Devils missed all eight of their 3-pointers, and they went the final 6:35 of the first half without a made field goal.
Greenwell missed all five of her first half shot attempts, all 3-pointers.
Oregon made 11 of its first 20 shots overall to take a 28-22 with 5:25 left in the first half. The Ducks went cold, missing their next seven shots.
But Duke could only manage four free throws – two by Brown and two by Crystal Primm – during that stretch to cut the Oregon lead to 28-26.
Hebard broke the Ducks scoreless streak with 33.6 seconds left in the half when she took a pass from McGwire to score inside.
A Maite Cazorla free throw allowed Oregon to take a five-point halftime lead.