Oregon Stuns Maryland, Will Advance To Monday's Elite Eight

Coach Kelly Graves has been to the regional finals before, but his young Oregon team hasn't.

Graves, in his third season with Oregon, went with Gonzaga, an 11th seed, in 2011. He's going back again with the 10th-seeded Ducks, who upset No. 3 Maryland 77-63 Saturday afternoon in the Bridgeport regional semifinal at Webster Bank Arena.

Oregon, which starts three freshmen, will play top-seeded UConn, an 86-71 winner over No. 4 UCLA in Saturday's second Bridgeport game, Monday night at 7 p.m. The Ducks had never reached the NCAA Tournament's Elite 8 before Saturday.

Freshman Sabrina Ionescu led Oregon (23-13) with 21 points, seven assists and six rebounds. Freshman Ruthy Hebard had 16 points and eight rebounds.

"Like Coach always says, we're not freshmen anymore," Hebard said. "We're 30, 35 games in."

Ionescu, in particular, did not play like a freshman, directing the team and controlling the tempo throughout, even in the end, when Maryland started to creep back into the game.

"I think it's all in the attitude," Graves said. "I think they are playing loose. They just continue to show great poise. Whoever we play in the next game is going to be like our 11th game against a team on the 1, 2, or 3 seed line. We've played a lot of really good teams and we've played them tough. I think our kids, the more you win these close games and these big games, they start to believe."

Senior center Brionna Jones had 16 points and 15 rebounds and senior guard Shatori Walker-Kimbrough added 16 points for Maryland (32-3), which ended the season for the second consecutive year with a disappointing loss. Last year, the second-seeded Terps were upset by Washington in the second round of the tournament.

"I just told the team in the locker room, I'm not going to let one game define the season that we had this year and I'm extremely proud of the team and everything we've been through," Maryland coach Brenda Frese said. "But I'll tell you this: Oregon is for real. I thought they were sensational tonight. I thought they punched first. I thought they were fearless, aggressive, confident and really punished us in terms of any mistakes or breakdowns we had."

After a back-and-forth first quarter, Oregon established a lead in the second, going up 29-23 on a long three-pointer by Ionescu with 3:42 left. Ionescu hit another with 30 seconds left to give the Ducks a 36-27 lead going into halftime.

Oregon's 6-5 freshman center Mallory McGwire picked up two quick fouls, her third and fourth, at the start of the third quarter and sat for most of the rest of the second half. It seemed at the time that it would be a problem, because Oregon needed her to help contain Jones. But the Ducks, who have five players 6-foot-3 or more, were able to keep her in check.

"I think early on, I just wasn't being as patient as I normally am, but credit to them, they came out hard on defense," Jones said.

And when Lexi Bando, who is third in the country in three-point shooting percentage, hit back to back three-pointers and the Ducks went up 53-41 with 2:36 left in the third quarter, it was not looking good for Maryland.

Maryland's 21 turnovers didn't help. Oregon had 11 steals and scored 18 points off turnovers.

Walker-Kimbrough's layup in the fourth quarter cut Oregon's lead to six, 69-63, with 3:19 left, but Ionescu hit a jumper and Brianna Fraser turned the ball over twice and the Ducks were off again.

"It felt like every time we would get it to within six points, we would have some sort of breakdown," Frese said. "Whether it was off of an O board, whether it was a defensive stop and then they would break it back open again."

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