PORTLAND, Ore. — Off to Oregon’s first appearance in the Final Four, guard Sabrina Ionescu set the theme for the second-seeded Ducks.
“All I gotta say is we’re not done yet,” Ionescu said after she had 31 points, eight assists and seven rebounds in Oregon’s 88-84 victory Sunday over top-seeded Mississippi State.
Satou Sabally had 22 points and seven rebounds for the Ducks (33-4), who head to Tampa to face the winner of Monday night’s game between top overall seed Baylor and Iowa.
At the final buzzer, Ionescu jumped into teammate Ruthy Hebard’s arms and coach Kelly Graves flashed an “O’’ with his hands to the crowd. The Ducks had been eliminated in the Elite Eight the past two seasons.
As Ionescu cut down a piece of the net, fans at the Moda Center chanted “One more year!” at the junior guard, who has been dogged by rumors she may skip her final year to go pro.
Teaira McCowan had 19 points and 15 rebounds in her final game for the Bulldogs (33-3), who had played in the NCAA title game for the past two seasons. Two of Mississippi State’s losses this season were to Oregon, and the first one was a true road game in Eugene.
It certainly had the feeling of an away game for Mississippi State, though the Bulldogs wore their home whites. Attendance at the Moda Center was announced at 11,534, with the vast majority cheering on the Ducks — a tough draw for a top seed.
“For us, man, I just can’t be prouder of my team today. You talk about competitive, tough. I just thought my team just fought tooth and nail today in a really hostile environment,” Bulldogs coach Vic Schaefer said.
Ionescu’s jumper put Oregon up 78-73 with just under three minutes left. After McCowan made a pair of free throws, Ionescu added a 3 that put the crowd on its feet and essentially put it away for the Ducks.
Bre’Amber Scott’s layup with 54 seconds left pulled the Bulldogs within 81-77, but Maite Cazorla answered with a 3-pointer for the Ducks. Jazzmun Holmes’ jumper cut the margin to five points with 26.4 seconds to go, but Mississippi State could not catch up.
Oregon also beat Mississippi State in December, ending the Bulldogs’ streak of 46 consecutive regular-season nonconference wins.
Ionescu averaged 19.6 points, 8.3 assists and 7.5 rebounds going into Sunday’s game. The Pac-12 Player of the Year has 18 career triple doubles, an NCAA record among men and women, including eight this season.
“I’m never amazed at anything she does really, after three years,” Graves said. “You just expect the incredible.”
Ionescu was asked afterward to go through the 3 she hit with just over a minute left.
“That was going in, regardless, there’s no other way to say it,” she said, drawing laughs. “I wanted to finish this game off the right way. We’ve come so far. We played so hard that entire game and I knew it was my time to hit a big-time shot.”
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Women’s Final Four
Amalie Arena, Tampa
April 5: semifinals, 7 and 9:30 TV: ESPN2
April 7: final, 6 TV: ESPN
More info/tickets: Single-session tickets are available through the NCAA’s official site; prices vary. Visit ncaa.com/womens-final-four
• The Tampa Convention Center will host Tourney Town, a free festival with contests, games, autographs and clinics April 5-7. The event includes Beyond the Baseline, which features opportunities for networking and professional development.
• The plaza outside Amalie Arena will host a free party with live music, food and games before the games (4-6:30 on April 5 and 3-5:30 on April 7).
• Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park will have a free celebration of basketball with fireworks and live music from 6-11 p.m. on April 6.
• The Women’s Final Four Bounce is a dribbling parade for children 18 and younger. It starts at 1 p.m. on April 7 at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park.