PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas (AP)Nyara Sabally made the paint her own for No. 9 Oregon, from the way she maintained her space to her ability to turn and muscle through an undersized opponent to finish around the rim.
The Ducks needed every bit of her career-best performance to hold off Oklahoma, too.
The 6-foot-5 redshirt junior scored 20 of her career high 30 points after halftime to help Oregon rally from 11 down and beat Oklahoma 98-93 in Saturday’s first round of the women’s Battle 4 Atlantis tournament. The 20 points in the second half alone matched her previous career high, and it came despite a knee tweak that had coach Kelly Graves saying she was day to day.
”I really wanted to win this game, we had to win this game,” said Sabally, who had an icebag wrapped around her right knee afterward. ”It wasn’t really a question for me. … Coach tells me all the time I need to be more aggressive down there, especially when I know I have an undersized person on me.”
Sabally went 11 for 19 from the floor while also finishing with 11 rebounds, three blocks and four assists for the Ducks (3-0). That included a floater in the lane that started the game-turning 9-0 burst in the final 2 minutes that finally pulled Oregon free against a guard-heavy Oklahoma team that was quick to push the action and even quicker to catch-and-fire from behind the arc.
The Ducks won despite being shorthanded in the backcourt due to injuries. They also didn’t have point guard Maddie Scherr for much of the second half because of foul trouble. She earned the playful nickname ”120” from Graves for how many minutes she’d need to play over the three 40-minute games at the Atlantis resort. She only played 28 Saturday.
But Oregon got a big game from Sydney Parrish, who scored all 18 of her points after halftime, while Sedona Prince added 11 points and 11 boards.
”We wanted to get it inside,” Graves said. ”I’m not sure our inside players really wanted it, demanded it, worked to get position (before halftime). They did in the second half.”
Taylor Robertson scored 29 points and hit 7 of 10 3-pointers to lead the Sooners (3-1), who spread out the bigger Ducks and fearlessly kept launching from deep. Robertson’s last came from the left corner to cut the deficit to 96-93 after Oregon had made its move, but Parrish hit two free throws with 5.1 seconds left to help the Ducks hold on.
Oklahoma shot just 36%, but made 14 of 36 3-pointers (39%).
”We’re not proud to lose this game, but we are proud that we came into this game and we were ourselves,” first-year Sooners coach Jennie Baranczyk said. ”And I think that’s something you can grow on.”
Oklahoma: The Sooners had won their first three games under Baranczyk, who left Drake to take over for now-retired Sherri Coale. They had relied on a four-guard lineup with only one starter taller than 5 feet, 11 inches in a newly installed fast-paced scheme. That group had a confident look right to the end, down to Madi Williams whipping a transition to Ana Llanusa to bury a contested 3-pointer on a 5-on-2 break late in the third quarter. Ultimately, the Sooners fell short in their bid to beat a top-10 team for the first time since beating No. 8 Texas in February 2017.
Oregon: The Ducks opened with two wins against overmatched opponents, allowing a combined 69 points to Idaho State and Dixie State. But sophomore guard Te-Hina Paopao, freshman guard Taylor Bigby and USC junior transfer Endyia Rogers were all sidelined by injuries. Oregon struggled to consistently take advantage of its size until well into the third quarter when Sabally stepped up, starting with a run of six straight points during a 10-0 burst that helped Oregon erase Oklahoma’s last big lead midway through the fourth on the way to 38 points in the final period.
PARADE TO THE LINE
Oklahoma and Oregon combined to shoot 62 free throws. The Sooners made 27 of 33 (82%), while the Ducks attacked the paint relentlessly late and made 17 of 19 (90%) in the fourth quarter.
Parrish went 7 of 8 at the line in the fourth.
BEHIND THE ARC
Robertson led Oklahoma’s outside shooting, including one in transition for a 78-68 lead with 7:10 left that had her chest-bumping teammates in an animated midcourt celebration. Williams (19 points) and Llanusa (18) each hit three 3s.
”Taylor especially,” Llanusa said, ”any inch of space for her is a good shot.”
Oklahoma: The Sooners play Buffalo in Sunday’s consolation bracket.
Oregon: The Ducks face top-ranked South Carolina in Sunday’s semifinals.
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