EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — Oregon coach Kelly Graves knew his team would find out what Baylor, Louisville and Stanford already learned in close calls against Arizona State.
Beating the Sun Devils wouldn’t come without a measure of discomfort for the Ducks.
Sabrina Ionescu scored 31 points and No. 5 Oregon fought off a late 3-point barrage and outlasted No. 19 Arizona State 77-71 on Friday night.
“I told the team before the game, it’s like going to the dentist,” Graves said, “because they work their butts off, they never give up, they’re talented, they play great defense and they don’t make anything easy.
“They didn’t tonight and that’s why it came down to the last minute.”
Maite Cazorla added 16 points and Ruthy Hebard had 14 for the Ducks (16-1, 5-0 Pac-12), who won their ninth game in a row to keep pace atop the conference standings. Oregon made its last six free throws to put the game away.
“They’re a tough team and we knew that,” Cazorla said. “We had to play tough for 40 minutes, and at the end we did the job.
“We won, that’s what matters.”
Kianna Ibis had 22 points to lead the Sun Devils (12-5, 3-3), who scored 15 of their final 17 points from beyond the arc. Jamie Ruden added 12 points off the bench.
After making only three 3-pointers in the first 35 minutes, ASU connected from deep five times in the final 5 minutes. Taya Olson had made two and was lining up a third from the corner that would have tied the score when Oregon’s Satou Sabally swooped in for the last of her four blocks.
Ibis scored inside moments later to cut it to 69-68 with 1:45 left, but Sabally’s hustle play had lit into the Ducks.
“That was a huge play,” Graves said. “We needed it at that moment.”
“A transition 3 like that could have changed the game,” Ionescu added, “and Satou chased that ball down from half-court and got a big block, and that’s what she does for us.”
Ionescu had 18 points in the second half and 12 in the final quarter. After shooting 55.2 percent in the opening half to build a 38-29 lead, the Ducks finished 28 of 56 for 50 percent with only nine assists on 28 field goals, well off their season average of 20.7 assists per game.
However, for the fourth time this season, the Sun Devils let another highly ranked opponent off the hook.
“We’d like to close it out,” ASU coach Charli Turner Thorne said. “It was a one-possession game and it would have been nice to have a few of my timeouts. We were close, we’re right there, just a few possessions we need to clean up.
“We know we can play with anybody in the country. We’ve got to get 40 minutes and when we get 40 minutes, there’s no doubt that we’ll be on top. We’re not quite there yet, but I thought this was a good effort by our team.”
Oregon led by 13 twice in the second half and was up 65-55 with 6:05 left before ASU used three 3-pointers during an 11-2 run to close to 67-66. Cazorla’s step-back jumper and Ionescu’s two free throws made it 73-68 before Courtney Ekmark’s 3 ended the Sun Devils’ scoring and they had to resort to fouling.
Charnea Johnson-Chapman had 10 points, all in the third quarter, and nine rebounds to help give ASU a 36-31 edge on the boards.
Arizona State now has four losses to teams ranked in the top six by an average of 5.3 points, with Friday night’s six-point margin the largest. The Sun Devils are in a run of four games against ranked opponents, including three in the top 10.
Oregon’s superior firepower as the nation’s highest-scoring team took a backseat to timely defense in the final three minutes to hold off the Sun Devils. The Ducks finished 14 points off their 91.1-point average.
Oregon needs help to crack the top four again, so hanging at No. 5 after a close call may be the best it can expect. Arizona State could get a bump in the next poll if it can give No. 10 Oregon State all it can handle.
STAT OF THE NIGHT
The Ducks, who lead the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.85), had only nine assists to eight turnovers.
Satou Sabally’s soaring block into the stands on a corner 3-point try sent the crowd of 6,769 into a frenzy and ignited an Oregon defense that forced a shot-clock violation and two airballs in the final three minutes.
SHE SAID IT
About the Ducks’ scoring power, Turner Thorne said: “I think they’ve got to be the best offensive team in the country. I know UConn is good, so maybe between (those two) and Notre Dame, but they’re the real deal.”
Arizona State: At No. 10 Oregon State on Sunday.
Oregon: Hosts Arizona on Sunday.
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