The Notre Dame women’s basketball team will face the Oregon Ducks tonight in Spokane with a trip to the Final Four on the line.
The Oregon Ducks enter Monday’s contest against the Notre Dame women’s basketball team as one of the tougher matchups the Irish have faced all season. Let’s get to know the Ducks and see what Notre Dame needs to do to win.
Who coaches the Ducks?
Oregon is coached by Kelly Graves. He formerly coached both St. Mary’s and Gonzaga — taking both teams the the NCAA Tournament. This season, he led the Ducks to their first Pac-12 regular season title in 18 years, finishing conference play with a 16-2 record. He is also an assistant coach on the U.S. Women’s Basketball team.
How did Oregon get here?
After winning the Pac-12 Tournament to get an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament, the Ducks defeated Seattle, Minnesota and Central Michigan to get to the Elite Eight — averaging 90.6 points per game in those three wins.
Scoring: Sabrina Ionescu, 19.5 ppg
Rebounding: Ruthy Hebard, 9 rpg
Assists: Sabrina Ionescu, 294 total
Blocks: Ruthy Hebard, 58 total
Steals: Sabrina Ionescu, 60 total
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What should scare the Irish?
Sabrina Ionescu is the Pac-12 Player of the Year. She makes the rest of her team better and can hurt you as a scorer and passer. Ruthy Hebard is one of the most dominant post-players on the country. She averages 17.6 ppg and can carry her team if Ionescu is struggling. The Ducks have five players who average double-figures in scoring — four of whom shoot .369 or better from behind the 3-point line.
Why shouldn’t Notre Dame be worried?
As the game progresses, the Irish should take comfort in the fact that they are deeper than the Ducks. This will be especially important in the post, where Muffet McGraw can constantly throw fresh bodies at Hebard down low. The Ducks have not faced a player as explosive on offensive as Arike Ogunbowale this season. They also played Louisville and Mississippi State earlier in the year and lost the two games by a combined 24 points.
What to the Irish need to do to win?
Notre Dame must mind the perimeter against the Ducks. They cannot peel off to help defend Ionescu when she drives to the paint, as she is an elite passer who will find one of her open long-range assassins. The Irish are built to play several styles. As a result, you may see Coach McGraw run a faster offensive pace than usual early on to exhaust a relatively short Oregon bench. Every possession will count in this one, so the Irish will need to crash the boards defensively to prevent second-chance baskets.
Notre Dame and Oregon tip off tonight at 9 pm ET, 8 pm central on ESPN.