EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — Oregon leads the nation in scoring offense, but it’s suddenly defense that matters to the Ducks.
While Sabrina Ionescu scored 17 points to go with eight rebounds and seven assists in leading No. 2 Oregon in an 88-51 rout of Utah on Sunday, the Ducks (12-1, 2-0) pointed to other numbers as the difference in the game.
The Ducks forced 20 turnovers by the Utes (7-7, 0-3), who shot 37% from the field overall and only 30% in the first half when the outcome was decided.
“I just thought we were really dialed in,” Oregon coach Kelly Graves said. “Where we’ve made the biggest strides in the last few weeks is at the defensive end.
“We’ve made it difficult for teams to get comfortable.”
Utah had five of its turnovers in the opening 10 minutes, and in points off turnovers, the Ducks finished with a 29-6 scoring edge.
“That’s impressive when you get almost 30 points off turnovers,” Graves said. “We’re on point. Our kids are doing a really good job of communicating our changing defenses.
“I want the other team to be confused, and not us, and we’re doing a really good job of that.”
That was especially apparent in the opening quarter, when the Ducks raced off to a 29-10 lead.
“We just had a horrendous first quarter and we’ve got to evaluate what we’re not doing,” Utah coach Lynne Roberts said, saying it was a repeat of her team struggling early against No. 3 Oregon State two days earlier in a 29-point defeat. “This is the toughest road trip in the country,” Roberts added. “Name another conference where you have to play two top five teams in 36 hours. It’s really hard.”
By margin, it was the worst Pac-12 defeat for Utah, in its ninth year in the conference. It was also Utah’s worst loss by margin since a 42-point defeat against Western Kentucky in 1993. It also tied for the 10th-largest margin of victory for Oregon in a conference game, two days after the Ducks beat Colorado by 58 points.
Ruthy Hebard recorded the 46th double-double of her career with 13 points and 12 rebounds and Minyon Moore added a season-high 17 points as the Ducks shot 53% from the field, though only 29% on 3-pointers. Lola Pendande had 12 points to lead the Utes. Oregon was again dominant from the opening tip. Two days after taking a 15-point lead after the first quarter against previously unbeaten Colorado, the Ducks led the Utes by 19 points after the first 10 minutes by shooting 55 percent from the field with a 13-5 advantage in rebounds. Utah simply couldn’t keep pace, shooting 3 of 12 from the field to go with five turnovers.
“We know they’re a good team and well-coached. They just haven’t got it going yet,” Ionescu said of the Utes. “We knew they were going to come out and give us their best shot so we had to dictate on offense and defense.” BIG PICTURE Utah: The Utes have lost all three of their Pac-12 games and four of five games overall to fall to 7-7. Oregon: In winning its first eight home games, Oregon’s closest margin of victory was by 36 points. INSIDE DOMINANCE Oregon had a 50-18 edge in points in the paint, and the Ducks also had a 17-2 advantage in second-chance points with 16 offensive rebounds. TURNED AROUND While Utah’s bench has outscored the opposing team’s substitutes in 11 of the previous 13 games, Oregon’s reserves had a 24-13 edge in that category. UP NEXT Utah is home to play No. 10 UCLA on Friday, its third consecutive top 10 opponent. The Utes have not defeated UCLA in the four previous seasons with Lynne Roberts as the head coach. Oregon is on the road to play at Arizona State on Friday. It will only be the third true road game for the Ducks, who won earlier away games at Syracuse and Long Beach State.