It remains the same with the 2019 part of the schedule coming to a close: Oregon is still the favorite for the title with a star-studded Ducks lineup that can hit program highs no matter who is on the floor.
It starts with senior Sabrina Ionescu, the triple-double queen who extended her record reign to 20 games in a 84-41 victory over UC Riverside at Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene on Monday afternoon.
Ionescu finished with 16 points, a career-high 18 rebounds and 12 assists for the third-ranked Ducks. She reached 20 triple-double games in her 119th collegiate appearance, becoming the second-fastest to the mark in the NCAA Division I, NBA and WNBA. Oscar Robertson reached it in 45 games, per ESPN Stats and Info, and Ben Simmons in 129 for third.
But it was freshman Jaz Shelley who took over the first star in her the first start of her collegiate career.
"It's not often that you can overshadow a triple-double of 16 points, 18 rebounds and 12 assists,” coach Kelly Graves told reporters.
Shelley scored a season-high 32 points — also a season-high for any individual Duck this year — with a program-record 10 3-pointers. The previous record was nine, set by three separate players including junior Erin Boley in January 2019. After an eight-point first half, she put in 15 of Oregon’s 23 third-quarter points to pull away in a lackluster start for the Ducks.
“I went and got shots up before breakfast and it was feeling really good,” Shelley said, via Oregon Live. "So just a quick 20 minutes and I think that’s where it clicked in to come today. ... I think I’m more comfortable now and my teammates have been so good. This is the best team I’ve been a part of. They say, ‘You’re hot so I’m going to get you the ball.’
“When I’m on I know my teammates are going to get me the ball. I just got to be confident and I think I’m at that place now.”
She shot 10 of 16 from the field and 10 of 14 from behind the arc. It followed a previous career-high of 17 points against Long Beach State last time out. The Australian’s breakout game came against a team that couldn’t keep up with Oregon, even on a bad day, but who she did it in place of is all the more notable for a first-year player.
Shelley got the start in place of Satou Sabally, who missed the game with an unspecified injury, per Oregon Live. Graves said she had the day off for being “a little banged up,” per the Oregon Ducks site. The junior, who missed the first three games while with the German national team, is averaging a second-best 15.5 points per game in 26.7 minutes.
If Oregon (9-1) is going to lose her to an injury, it’s best it be now with two games, one of which is an exhibition, on the schedule before 2020. The Ducks open the Pac-12 schedule with Colorado at home on Jan. 3 and continue that Sunday against Utah. Having Shelley get quality minutes — she was averaging 14.6 minutes per game before these past two and played only five against Louisville — will only build the depth the Ducks might need later in the season, specifically in the tournament, and even for future years.
Ruthy Hebard is leading the team with an average 18.0 points and 10.0 rebounds along with 15 total blocks and 12 steals. Ionescu is averaging 14.4 points, 9.3 rebounds and 9.0 assists with a team-high 15 total steals.
Thrilling peek at 2020 Big East
The ranked battle between No. 2 UConn and No. 16 DePaul started rocky in terms of a thrilling, close matchup. The Huskies (9-0) wasted no time in running up the score like it was the team of the early 2010s and demolished DePaul in the process.
They held the Blue Demons (9-2) to 13 first-quarter points, doubling up for a 26-13 lead and ballooning it to 55-29 at the half. It was a season-high points in the first half for UConn.
DePaul averages 12 3-pointers per game and UConn promptly shut that down, holding the Blue Demons to two in the first half while hitting 8 of 13 themselves. Her Hoop Stats with the breakdown:
But things average out. DePaul made nine 3-pointers in the second half and crawled within four in the fourth quarter following a dominating third.
''We knew coming out in the second half that it was impossible to re-create that first half,'' UConn coach Geno Auriemma said, via the Associated Press. ''That wasn't going to happen. When you have such a good shooting team like they do, you're not going to have a game when they don't make any.''
It was a wild one — and will hopefully continue to be so when the two face off in the Big East beginning next season — with the Huskies keeping hold of a 84-74 victory.
Megan Walker’s double-double of 22 points and 13 rebounds led the Huskies. She chipped in seven assists.
Crystal Dangerfield had 11 with three rebounds, four assists and three steals. She shot a team-best 4 of 8 from range.
Olivia Nelson-Ododa was a perfect 9 of 9 from the field, and hit her one free throw, to have a career-high 19 points. Christyn Williams had her first career double-double of 13 points and 11 rebounds.
DePaul senior Chante Stonewall scored a team-high 21 points in a full 40 minutes with five rebounds, four assists, one steal and one block. Sophomore Sonya Morris had 20 points, three rebounds, two assists and four steals. And senior Kelly Campbell had a team-high 10 rebounds.
Neither team relied much on their bench players.
Kentucky, the great unknown — now known
The Battle of the Bluegrass was a tight one this year with Louisville, now ranked sixth in the AP poll out Monday, prevailing, 67-66, against Kentucky after falling behind by double-digits in the third quarter. The Wildcats (10-1) remain at No. 14 in the rankings, and coach Matthew Mitchel found out that his previously undefeated squad was worth its record despite a lackluster early schedule.
"I didn't know exactly what was going to happen today," Mitchell said, via ESPN. "We played a couple of tough games early and then we've been on a series of games here where we won by very comfortable margins. You could put on tape, with [Louisville], the Oregon game and some of those games they played and you could tell what they were doing against top level competition."
And from forward Tatyana Wyatt, via ESPN’s Graham Hays:
"Today was not the outcome we wanted. But it was something that showed us what we can do."
Kentucky, led by All-American Rhyne Howard, will close its 2019 with a game at the University of California on Saturday. Then it’s No. 5 South Carolina and No. 14 Tennessee within four days to start the new year.
Louisville (10-1) will go to UT Martin on Thursday and begin ACC play at home against Syracuse on Dec. 29. The Orange (5-4) fell out of the rankings a few weeks back, but played a tough schedule with losses against three ranked teams, including Oregon and Stanford.
What to watch this week
Ohio (6-3) at Texas (5-4), 8 p.m. ET
No. 23 Tennessee (8-1) at No. 1 Stanford (9-0), 10 p.m.
Duel in the Desert: South Florida (7-4) vs. No. 15 Mississippi State (9-2), 7 p.m.
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