EUGENE – Matthew Knight Arena loved their Ducks.
The 11,530 fans gathered in Eugene last Saturday were loud, decked out in green and highlighter yellow and nearly filled the seats in Oregon’s arena.
The sight, though perhaps unusual for Oregon women’s basketball four years ago, has become typical of the crowd-drawing No. 1 ranked Ducks. As play began, it became clear that Oregon fans were captivated by this program, even to the point of booing Team USA.
What was even more surprising than the lopsided preference was the outcome.
“We knew they were the best team in the world, best players in the world,” Oregon guard Sabrina Ionescu. “We were just going to try to stay within 20.
“As the game continued to go on, we just kind of forgot about who they were and what the expectations were.”
The Ducks outscored Team USA at every turn: in the paint, off turnovers, on second-chance opportunities and off fast breaks. They bested USA in every quarter except the first.
“You felt sort a swing when all of a sudden Sabrina hit a darn-near half-court shot,” USA head coach Cheryl Reeve said. “The momentum swung. We couldn’t get it back.”
USA legacy Diana Taurasi warned the Ducks the night before to stay mad and not get complacent.
Trailing four points at halftime, Oregon took the words to heart and came out with a roaring 30-point third quarter. In the fourth, the Ducks took their largest lead of 12 points and sailed all the way to a historic victory.
The final score: 93-86, making the Ducks the first collegiate program in 20 years to beat USA.