EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — Oregon coach Kelly Graves says he wouldn’t trade his inside-outside sophomore combo of Ruthy Hebard and Sabrina Ionescu for any duo in the country.
Hebard and Ionescu scored 25 points each to lead No. 10 Oregon to an 89-56 victory over Washington State on Friday in the Pac-12 opener for both teams.
“Listen, these are our marquee players,” Graves said. “They’re our best players and the team’s looking for them to set the tone, and they did.
“We’re going to rely on them all season long for here on out.”
Hebard had 10 rebounds for the Ducks (12-2) for her fourth double-double of the season. Oregon finished the game on a 20-6 run for its largest margin of victory in a conference game in 12 years.
Lexi Bando added 18 points and Satou Sabally 14 for the Ducks, who won their fourth in a row.
Louise Brown led the Cougars (7-6) with 12 points, and Kayla Washington had 10.
Washington State played without its leading scorer, sophomore Borislava Hristova, who’s fourth in the Pac-12 at 16.9 points per game.
With Oregon’s 3-point shooting on the blink in the first half (2 of 15), Hebard went to work inside for 16 points. The Pac-12’s best shooter at 64.7 percent made 10 of her first 11 shots and finished 11 of 14.
“I just want to get better inside by trying to stay on balance and finish more,” Hebard said.
The Ducks shot better from the arc in the second half (8 of 16) and also converted 18 Cougar turnovers into 25 points. Sabally had five of Oregon’s 14 steals.
“Satou continues to get better right before our eyes,” Graves said of the German freshman. “She’s so long and she’s learning to anticipate better. What’s good about her is that when she gets a steal, it usually turns into something good at the other end.”
Ionescu scored 15 points in the third quarter, making all five of her shots including three 3-pointers. The Cougars were 10 of 15 in the period but saw their deficit grow by three points to 69-48.
“I thought it was a great way for us to start league,” Graves said. “We built a nice lead primarily off our defense.
“We didn’t shoot the 3 that well, and it’s nice to know you’re going to have games like that where you’re able to rely on your defense and Ruthy inside. That’s a sign of a maturing group, finding ways to get it done.”
Oregon has won nine of its last 10 games and its first Pac-12 opener in coach Kelly Graves’ fourth season in Eugene. The Ducks snapped a seven-game losing streak in conference openers.
Washington State started conference play last year by beating Oregon on the road and now faces the tough task of winning at three-time defending champion Oregon State.
Washington State: Plays at No. 17 Oregon State on Sunday.
Oregon: Hosts Washington on Sunday.
Oregon, in the midst of its longest run in the top 10 in program history at seven consecutive weeks, is the highest-ranked team with two losses. The Ducks’ best chance to improve their standing likely comes next weekend when they visit USC and No. 11 UCLA, the coaches’ preseason favorite to win the Pac-12.
Oregon scored on a 75-foot fast break off a third-quarter steal without the ball touching the floor on passes from Bando to Maite Cazorla to a streaking Sabally for the layup.
STAT OF THE GAME
Oregon’s backcourt starters of Ionescu and Cazorla each had eight of the Ducks’ 20 assists.
Ionescu, the national freshman of the year last season, was named Pac-12 player of the week four times during nonconference play.
SHE SAID IT
Ionescu, who was 5 of 9 beyond the arc, wasn’t concerned by her team’s 10-of-31 showing from 3. Oregon came into game fourth nationally in 3-point accuracy at 42.1 percent. “Our transition allowed us to get out and get some easy baskets,” she said, “and down low we’re so long and athletic that if we can’t shoot the ball (from outside), I think we’ll pound the ball down low and be all right.”