Ionescu will return for senior season at Oregon

Arnold Nichols
April 10, 2019

She led the Ducks to their first-ever Final Four appearance in the NCAA Women's Tournament and broke the NCAA's all-time (men's and women's) triple-double record (18) while also setting an NCAA-record eight triple-doubles in a single season.

They did it after three-straight historic runs to the Elite Eight. In doing so, the Bears became only the third team since the field was expanded to 64 teams to win each of its games en route to the Final Four by 25-plus points.

Well, as so often is the case, such fretting was for naught.

Baylor and OR traded shots, changing the lead 12 times throughout the game, but in the last minute the game was tied.

Mulkey, for one, wasn't concerned. I think we're really happy to be here as a team. "I didn't", she said after the win. "Every one of those freshmen, they give that group - they beat them sometimes in practice".

But the Bears leaned on their signature defense in the game's final minutes, holding the Ducks to three points in the game's final 6:13 as OR shot 1-of-13 from the field down the stretch.

All year, Sabally has had to watch her team from the confined seats of the bench due to suffering a severe knee injury in the FIBA U18 European Championship game in August. Their nation-leading winning streak sits at 28, with their lone loss having come in December at Stanford.

"I really thought that we had a chance to win that game - and even to win it all. If we can get here again, or sometime soon, now we'll have a little bit of experience and that always helps".

OR junior guard Sabrina Ionescu has chosen to return for her senior season rather than enter the 2019 WNBA draft, she announced on Saturday.

With or without Ionescu in tow for the 2019-20 campaign, the Ducks will eagerly await Nyara Sabally's collegiate debut to add depth and a new dynamic to the frontcourt that already includes Boley, Hebard and Satou Sabally. "We've never seen it before, '" Brown said about her chemistry with Cox. "I'm still in shock". "I can't play 100 percent right now, but if my team needed me, I'd just suck it up and play through the pain, obviously not at 100 percent but if they needed me, I would have been there". But the junior guard did not score in the fourth quarter (she was 0-for-7 from the field), as the Ducks shot just 26.3 percent in the final 10 minutes. Oregon, facing the pressure of the Bears and of the moment, tightened up and missed its final five shot attempts. During her three seasons at Oregon, Ionescu scored 1,984 career points with 792 assists and 756 rebounds.

The Ducks return most of their team that won the Pac-12 regular season title and most likely will be a favorite to win the national championship next year. Baylor, on the other hand, hauled with it the pressure of being the No. 1 overall seed. OR was going to try to take away the Bears' post players.

Boley hit two 3-pointers to give OR an 11-4 edge before Mulkey subbed in 6-foot-2 NaLyssa Smith to give the already imposing Baylor lineup even more size.

OR finished the rally, and gained a 34-33 edge at intermission, thanks to Ionescu. But she and Brown were rarely found on the court at the same time. She managed 15 of her 18 points when Richards was defending her, but on just 5-of-14 shooting.

Baylor's size played out on the defensive end as well. "No magical words", Mulkey said. They see Oregon Women's Basketball playing in the Final Four.... nearly making the title game.

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