Even one of UCLA’s biggest supporters was impressed.
After Oregon forward Ruthy Hebard dominated No.7 UCLA with 30 points and 17 rebounds in an 80-66 win on Friday at Pauley Pavilion, the 6-foot-4 senior heard Oregon coach Kelly Graves call her name.
Hebard, who was on her way to an on-court TV interview, whipped her head around. She saw Bill Walton’s smiling face, a 6-foot-11 tower standing on the baseline dressed in a blue UCLA polo and black pants. The Bruins legend extended his hand and shook hishead.
“Wow,” he said.
With Hebard’s inside presence and Sabrina Ionescu orchestrating another masterful offensive performance, No.3 Oregon hammered UCLA, which had a chance to climb into a tie for first place in the Pac-12.
Instead of seizing the opportunity, the Bruins (21-3, 10-3 Pac-12) never led while playing in front of a season-high 5,912 crowd that was at least one-third Oregon fans.
“We need to do a reality check and look in the mirror and figure out who’s fighting and who’s not,” senior Japreece Dean said of her message to her team after the game. “Because I felt like as a team, collectively, I feel like we didn’t fight and it starts with yourself.”
Junior Michaela Onyenwere scored nine of her team-high 23 points in the fourth quarter to help UCLA trim a 26-point deficit to 10 with two minutes remaining, but the Bruins couldn’t overcome a first quarter in which they made just two field goals while Oregon’s record-setting seniors rolled.
Needing just three assists to join former Gonzaga guard Courtney Vandersloot as the only NCAA players with 2,000 points and 1,000 assists, Ionescu finished with 18 points, eight assists and seven rebounds.
The point guard is 27 rebounds away from becoming the first college player with 2,000 points, 1,000 assists and 1,000 rebounds.
While Oregon’s do-it-all star added another line to her impressive resume, the undersized Bruins had no answer for the 6-4 Hebard.
The NCAA’s active leader in field goals made towered over UCLA, which didn’t play anyone taller than 6-1, and overpowered anyone who met her in the paint. Oregon, which scored the first seven points and had a 20-point halftime lead, outscored UCLA 42-32 in the paint.
“We felt like they didn’t have an answer for her,” Graves said. “We felt like she was just too big and too skilled for them and that proved to be so.”
While UCLA has consistently played Oregon (23-2, 12-1) close recently, with four of the last five games coming down to five or fewer points, this season’s Ducks have ascended to another level.
With four starters returning from last year’s Final Four team, the offense is equally as lethal. The addition of USC transfer Minyon Moore, a two-time All-Pac-12 defensive team selection, boosted Oregon’s scoring defense from 135th last season to 30th this year.
The result is a team that’s won 11 in a row, a streak that includes eight ranked opponents. The wins have come by an average of 25.5 points.