OR star Sabrina Ionescu to return for senior season

OR star Sabrina Ionescu to return for senior season

OR star Sabrina Ionescu to return for senior season

In a thrilling Final Four opener, Satou Sabally tied the score at 67 with Oregon's 12th 3-pointer, but that was the Ducks' last basket of a remarkable season in which Coach Kelly Graves' roster crashed through to the Final Four for the first time in program history.

Locked in a close game for the first time in weeks, Baylor never flinched.

Baylor's tandem of Lauren Cox and Kalani Brown, even if indirectly, affected every OR offensive possession.

Baylor, which shot 54.4 percent from the field, will face defending champion Notre Dame after the Irish defeated second-seeded CT 81-76 in the other semifinal Friday night.

Oregon, the nation's best 3-point shooting team with a 41.9 percent success rate, connected on 12-of-32 shots from distance, but couldn't compete in the paint with a team that also led the nation in rebounding differential and blocked shots in addition to owning the game's best field-goal percentage defense. Ionescu shot 6 for 24.

OR shot 12-of-32 from deep as a team.

Ionescu shrugged off a scoreless first quarter in which she attempted just two shots. The top-seeded Bears proved Friday night in a 72-67 win over No. 2 OR that they can clench their jaws and hold off a fearless, hot-shooting opponent down the stretch just as well as they crushed overmatched ones by halftime.

The Ducks led 34-33 at halftime after a four-point play by Ionescu with eight seconds remaining.

The Lady Bears were the third team ever to enter the Final Four after winning all of its tournament games by at least 25 points. The Ducks, who face Baylor on Friday night, had fallen one win short of the national semifinals for the second straight year.

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UConn did it twice, in 2010 and 2013, and capped each of those seasons with a national championship. It wasn't fun coming alone, seeing the teams you played, seeing the buses get escorted while you're standing on the street watching, because I remember that like it was yesterday. There is no doubt in anyone's mind that she's going to show up and show out for her team tonight. "We give it to Lauren at the high post, then Kalani just goes to work".

OR actually got off 11 more shots than the Lady Bears, but shot just 37 percent for the game and 36 percent on 2-point field goals.

When Richards picked up her fourth foul in the opening minute of the fourth quarter, Landrum took on the assignment of guarding Ionescu the remainder of the game. Sabally, who had nailed a 3-pointer with 1:40 to play, missed this time.

Sabally joined Ionescu in double figures with 16 points.

Top WNBA Draft prospect Sabrina Ionescu announced her return to OR next season with a letter in The Players' Tribune on Saturday.

Asked during a postgame news conference if she's made a decision about her future, Ionescu responded with a single word: "No".

Ionescu now holds the NCAA record with 18 triple-doubles.

Little pieces of confetti that appeared to be falling from above an area above the scoreboard occasionally fell to the floor during the game and had to be removed during stoppages in play.

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