No. 1 Oregon escapes cold start to defeat No. 17 Syracuse, 81-64

Oregon's Sabrina Ionescu, right, dribbles past Syracuse's Kiara Lewis, left, in the first quarter of an NCAA college basketball game in Syracuse, N.Y., Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Nick Lisi)
Oregon's Sabrina Ionescu, right, dribbles past Syracuse's Kiara Lewis, left, in the first quarter of an NCAA college basketball game in Syracuse, N.Y., Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Nick Lisi)

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — This week won’t be easy for the No. 1 Oregon Ducks. They knew that going in. It’s just as clear now.

The top-ranked team in the country played a tight one with No. 17 Syracuse in the Carrier Dome on Sunday and pulled away in the third quarter to win, 81-64, and embark on a trip to the Virgin Islands for the Paradise Jam Tournament unscathed.

Satou Sabally had 23 points, nine rebounds, three assists and three steals to lead Oregon (4-0). Sabrina Ionescue was mostly quiet, but erupted to end the third and ended with 19 points, seven rebounds and six assists. Erin Boley had a standout game, hitting 5-of-9 3-pointers and ending with 19 points.

Minyon Moore had 10 assists and Ruthy Hebard had 13 rebounds in a team win as Syracuse’s Kiara Lewis kept bringing the Orange (3-1) back in front of the home crowd. She had a team-high 23 points with five assists. Maeva Djaldi-Tabdi had 16 points, coming off the bench in the early minutes to give the Orange an early boost and avoid a hole.

Ducks pull away in standard fashion

It went down in two minutes a little over halfway through the third quarter and suddenly the superstar Ducks were en route to clear victory by outscoring the Orange, 31-16, in the third quarter.

Oregon and Syracuse were still playing tight, tied at 40-40, until Hebard took over, scoring five points with two rebounds. Combined with a 3-pointer from Erin Boley and a bucket by Sabally the Ducks were up 50-40.

They outscored the Orange 12-6 in the back 3:07 of the quarter to take a 62-46 lead. It was the final 20 seconds that was pure Ducks.

Taylor Chavez missed a 3-pointer that was inches from falling into one of four Orange players hands near the key. Ionescu soared into the mix, snared the ball and immediately sent it to Sabally in the corner. She hit the shot and was fouled; when she missed the free throw she rebounded it and got it to Minyon Moore.

Moore found Ionescu near the other corner, and the nation’s top player drilled it, drawing back her fist in her typically emphatic way and the Ducks were on their way to the Virgin Islands. It was her first 3-pointer of the game and only her 10th point.

Oregon shot 60 percent (12 of 20) in the third quarter, a monumental improvement over the 26.5 percent in the first half, and 63.6 percent in the fourth. They were 5 of 10 on 3-pointers in the quarter, whereas they hit 4 of 17 in the first two quarters combined.

They finished at 43.1 percent and made 14-of-20 free throws, besting Syracuse’s 8 of 12.

Cold start for Oregon in Dome

Oregon had an uncharacteristic day that allowed the close scores. The Ducks struggled from the floor in the cavernous Carrier Dome, shooting 26.5 percent (9 of 34) overall and 23.5 percent from the 3-point line (4 of 17) in the first half. In its first three games, Oregon shot 52.3 percent. (The Ducks shot 50 percent in the exhibition win over the U.S. national team).

Ionescu said after the game they knew the shots would eventually fall, which they did.

Syracuse was the team that started cold, falling into a 6-0 deficit while missing all three field goal attempts — all forced to take behind the arc — and two free throws. The Orange allowed the pompom-crazy fans to take a seat at the 6:30 mark of the first with a bucket by Maeva Djaldi-Tabdi, an early substitute for head coach Quentin Hillsman.

Sabally had 12 of the Ducks’ 15 first-quarter points in her first regular-season minutes. She missed the first three games while with the German national team at Eurobasket qualifying. Erin Boley had a 3-pointer as the other points. Ruthy Hebard had six of the 15 team rebounds.

Kiara Lewis broke the 15-all tie for Syracuse with three 3-pointers in the early minutes of the second quarter to go up, 24-15, and Cuse trailed the top team by one, 31-30 at the half.

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