BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) — Sabrina Ionescu has won the hearts of little girls and NBA stars alike with her dynamic play, and during the start of an emotional weekend she shined as Stephen Curry watched and shook his head from courtside.
Ionescu recorded her NCAA-best 25th career triple-double with 17 points, 11 assists and 11 rebounds as fan and two-time MVP Curry supported her, leading No. 3 Oregon to its 13th straight win with a 93-61 victory over California on Friday night.
On Monday, Ionescu will speak at Kobe Bryant’s memorial service in Southern California then fly back to the Bay Area to face Stanford that night with the Pac-12 regular-season title likely riding on the result.
“Monday’s going to be a difficult day for her to speak at the memorial for Kobe and Gianna, but what a great opportunity and a great privilege and a great honor,” coach Kelly Graves said.
“And then to have to fly up and have to play what is going to be a really big game on Monday night, but if there’s anybody that can handle something like that, it’s her. She’ll use it as fuel. It wouldn’t surprise me if she has a game for the ages that night, because that’s how she’s wired.”
Erin Boley hit six of her eight 3-pointers in the first half on the way to 24 points as the Ducks (25-2, 14-1 Pac-12) closed in on another conference title.
Ionescu shot 7 for 9 in the seventh triple-double of her career that came on the road. She has the most in NCAA history, in the men’s or women’s game. Back home in her native Bay Area, Ionescu received a rousing ovation when introduced before the game and again when she left for good with 4:27 remaining. She didn’t speak to the media afterward to enjoy some rare time with family and friends.
After reaching the 1,000 assists mark in last Friday’s 80-66 win at UCLA, Ionescu moved within nine rebounds of becoming the first player in NCAA history with 2,000 points, 1,000 assists and 1,000 rebounds.
She grew up in nearby Walnut Creek, while Graves spent three seasons from 1997-2000 coaching Saint Mary’s College, close by in Moraga.
Boley shot 8 of 9 from behind the arc to finish one 3 off her career high of nine set at Washington on Jan. 27, 2019. When she starts knocking down shots, Graves said, “we become really difficult to guard.”
“It helps if you’re in a good rhythm for sure, especially to start the game,” Boley said of finding her shooting touch. ”When everybody’s working together well and we’re able to find the open person each time down the floor whether it’s inside or out, it definitely helps us get into a good rhythm.”
Jaelyn Brown scored 26 points on 10-for-25 shooting to join the 1,000-point club and Cailyn Crocker added 15 points to lead Cal (10-16, 2-13).
“It’s still unreal to me at this point,” Brown said of her milestone. “It’s just amazing to do it with my teammates.”
The Golden Bears took a 105-55 thumping from the Ducks on Jan. 19 in Eugene. That was Oregon’s second-most points this season and highest total for a conference game.
“This is a top team in the country Oregon, it was really impressive. Oregon, they’re a beast,” first-year Cal coach Charmin Smith said. “I was proud of how we fought. I’m proud of the growth that we’ve shown since playing them in Eugene.”
This time, Oregon hit six of its first eight shots and jumped to a 15-2 lead behind snappy passing and in-your-face, pressure defense.
Ruthy Hebard had 20 points — making 10 of 13 shots — and 15 rebounds for Oregon. She is the reigning Pac-12 and national player of the week after averaging 26 points and 13.5 rebounds in her team’s road sweep of UCLA and USC.
Oregon began its final road trip of the Pac-12 regular season looking to clinch at least a share of its third straight conference title by sweeping of the Northern California schools.
With fourth-ranked Stanford next up Monday at Maples Pavilion, the Ducks already have eight wins over ranked opponents and five against top-10 teams.
Golden State Warriors star Curry sat courtside on one baseline with daughters Riley and Ryan. Curry said “100 percent” it’s good to support Ionescu and the women’s game.
“Pretty cool, and it’s a great atmosphere, too,” he said.
Curry shook his head as he watched the replay of a three-point play by Ionescu with 2:47 left in the third.
“I think they just appreciate greatness and she’s a great player,” Graves said.
His Warriors teammate, Ky Bowman, and Hall of Famer Chris Mullin also were in the house at Haas Pavilion.
CONFERENCE TITLE CHASE
If the Ducks can win on Stanford’s home floor Monday AND a Stanford loss to Oregon State, Oregon would win the Pac-12 title outright — joining only Stanford as the teams to do so in the league in three consecutive seasons.
Oregon: The Ducks are outscoring opponents by 26.1 points during the winning streak. They led the nation in scoring offense at 85.9 points per game and with their 50.7 field-goal percentage. … Oregon is 10-1 on the road.
Cal: Cal was outdone 48-32 on the boards after the Bears had outrebounded two of their last three opponents, including a commanding 55-39 in a 74-70 overtime loss to UCLA on Feb. 9 and 42-39 last weekend against Utah. … Cal is 7-9 at home.
Oregon: At third-ranked Stanford on Monday night. The Ducks used a big second half to beat the Cardinal 87-55 on Jan. 16 in Eugene.
“We got ‘em pretty good at our place, so that doesn’t happen very often to Tara teams,” Graves said of Hall of Fame Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer. “My guess is she’s going to have them fired up and ready.”
Cal: Hosts No. 15 Oregon State on Sunday after losing 81-44 to the Beavers in Corvallis on Jan. 17.
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