No. 3 Oregon hands No. 4 UConn worst home loss since 2005
By DOUG FEINBERG AP Basketball Writer
STORRS, Conn. (AP) — Coach Kelly Graves and Oregon made history, handing UConn one of its worst home losses under Geno Auriemma.
Ruthy Hebard had 22 points and 12 rebounds as No. 3 Oregon rolled past the fourth-ranked Huskies 74-56 on Monday night, UConn’s first loss on campus in seven years.
UConn had never had a defeat this bad while playing in Gampel Pavilion, which opened in 1990.
“It means a lot. This is hallowed ground, so to speak,” Graves said of the win. “They’ve been so good for so long. It means a great deal. … It’s icing on the cake — a pretty sweet cake. Who doesn’t look up to Geno? He’s an icon and great coach.”
It was UConn’s worst home loss on any court since Dec. 5, 2005, when North Carolina beat the Huskies by 23 points in Hartford, their other home.
UConn’s previous worst margin of defeat at Gampel was 17 points against Iowa in 1990 and against Syracuse in 1992. The Huskies were beaten by 25 points in 1980 by St. John’s when the team played at The Field House.
“They came in here and did something that very few people have been able to do,” Auriemma said. “In that first quarter it was evident that physically we couldn’t match up with them tonight, plain and simple.”
Sabrina Ionescu added 10 points, nine rebounds and nine assists for the Ducks (20-2), falling short of increasing her NCAA-record 23 triple-doubles.
“To walk into this arena, we were all star-struck looking at the walls and banners,” Ionescu said. “It’s where we’re trying to get our program and model after them. Huge for us to do what we did, but still a lot of room for improvement.”
The Ducks built a big lead early in the much-anticipated matchup before a sellout crowd. UConn hadn’t lost on campus since falling to Notre Dame on Jan. 5, 2013. The Huskies were beaten by No. 2 Baylor by 16 points in Hartford last month, ending the team’s 98-game home winning streak.
UConn (19-2) scored the first two points, and then the Ducks reeled off 10 straight points, forcing a UConn timeout. The Huskies tried to rally, but Satou Sabally hit a 3-pointer just before the buzzer at the end of the quarter to take a 22-12 lead.
“We took control early and maintained it. Good defensive energy,” Graves said.
UConn got within seven in the second quarter, but Ionescu and the Ducks answered to go into the half leading 44-31.
They extended the advantage in the second half to as many as 21 points. UConn rallied behind hot 3-point shooting to get within 12 but did not get closer.
Crystal Dangerfield led UConn with 19 points. The Huskies were outscored 44-14 in the paint.
It was the first time the Ducks have beaten the Huskies in four meetings. The teams’ initial game was a regional final in the 2017 NCAA Tournament that UConn won by 38 points.
Auriemma was wearing a No. 8 Kobe Bryant shirt under his sports jacket. Auriemma was friends with Bryant and his daughter Gianna, who was interested in playing at UConn. The Huskies honored the pair, who died in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26, in their exhibition game against the U.S. national team last Monday.
“Someone sent it to me that was at the Lakers game the other night when they put all those out,” Auriemma said. “So because they sent it to me, they thought enough of it, I thought I should wear it.”
The NCAA unveiled its top 16 teams to this point in the season on Monday night. Oregon was the top seed in the Portland Region, while UConn was the No. 2 seed in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
This was the first time UConn had hosted a higher-ranked team since 2016 against No. 2 Baylor. … The Huskies announced all of their players in pregame introductions, and each gave a ball to a breast cancer survivor. The contest was the annual Play4Kay game that raises awareness for breast cancer and former N.C. State coach Kay Yow. … It’s the first time since 2013 that the Huskies have lost two home games in the same season. … Megan Walker missed 12 of her first 13 shots before finishing with eight points.
Former UConn assistant Jamelle Elliott is replacing Jasmine Lister, who has taken a leave of absence for personal reasons. Elliott, who currently is an associate athletic director at UConn, previously served as a member of Auriemma’s staff from 1998 to 2009. Elliott played on UConn’s first national championship team in 1995.
Oregon: Hosts No. 12 Arizona on Friday.
UConn: Hosts Memphis on Friday.
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