EUGENE, Ore. -- This was the world UConn and Tennessee let loose. Just a bit greener.
A day after the renewal of the greatest rivalry in the history of NCAA women's basketball filled an arena on the other side of the country, Oregon and Oregon State continued what is surely a candidate for the best rivalry of the moment. It is certainly one of the sport's toughest tickets.
Known as the Civil War, the Ducks and Beavers play two games in the span of 40 hours and a little more than 40 miles along Interstate 5. The games have been sold out for weeks, and on the secondary market the price of good seats soared into the hundreds of dollars in advance of Friday's game inside Matthew Knight Arena. They will come no cheaper for Sunday's game in Gill Coliseum.
The only thing missing was a game that waited too long to live up to the atmosphere, No. 4 Oregon holding off No. 7 Oregon State in a 76-64 win in which the margin was rarely single digits.
"We had the WNBA commissioner here tonight," Oregon coach Kelly Graves said. "We had half the league's general managers or head coaches were here from the WNBA. I, for a fact, know they wish their arenas looked like this. I think it's incredible. This was an incredible show."
So with a short turnaround until these teams meet again, here are five takeaways from Friday.
Sabrina Ionescu's bragging rights
For all the numbers Ionescu generates -- she passed Ticha Penicheiro and Temeka Johnson on the NCAA career assists leaderboard Friday, and passed Gary Payton for the all-time Pac-12 record for men and women -- she still has a losing career record against Oregon State. But after Friday's win, she at least gave herself a chance to level the mark at .500 with a victory Sunday.
But those weren't the only in-state bragging rights with national implications on the line Friday. For a time this season, Ionescu's closest competition for player of the year looked as if it might be Oregon State's Mikayla Pivec. That had probably already shifted before Friday, thanks to the likes of Kentucky's Rhyne Howard and a handful of others inserting themselves into the debate.
And against all of that, Ionescu drove home the point that everyone is playing for second place with 23 points and nine assists, including two quarter-ending, buzzer-beating 3-pointers. And she did it on n a night when Pivec struggled to influence the game as a finisher (eight points on 4-for-11 shooting) or facilitator (four assists).
Satou Sabally spared the Beavers ... until she didn't
Oregon State started out with Destiny Slocum defending Oregon's 6-foot-4 do-everything German. There are a lot of things Slocum can do better than most on a basketball court. Defending that size isn't on the list.
The Beavers tried Kennedy Brown, a freshman who doesn't give away any inches to Sabally but isn't a match for her off the dribble. They settled on a zone, which wasn't wholly ineffective but allowed Sabally to look over the guards on the perimeter and feed the ball inside to Ruthy Hebard.
There wasn't a good answer. And It was only Sabally's errant shooting stroke that kept her from owning the night. In what has been a bugaboo all season for someone who shot 41% from the 3-point line a season ago, Sabally missed her first six 3-point attempts on mostly open looks. As it was, she still nearly pulled an Ionescu with 13 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists.
"I thought Satou did a really good job defensively," Graves said. "She's getting better there and is understanding it better. She's figured out that if that shot's not going down she can find other ways to help us. And she did. I don't anticipate she's going to shoot 1-of-7 from the 3-point line again. That's an aberration for her."
But when Oregon needed a shot the most, with Oregon State desperately trying to close to a couple of possessions in the waning minutes, Sabally knocked down her only 3 of the night to extend the lead back to double digits with three minutes to play.
"We gave ourselves a chance -- a small chance, but we gave ourselves a chance at the end," Oregon State coach Scott Rueck said. "Satou's 3 was the game."
Taylor Jones introduction
There is a reason Rueck is still 15-4 against the Ducks since taking over nearly a decade ago. That reason was Ruth Hamblin for a long time. It was Marie Gulich for a decent stretch, too.
Oregon State is as good at developing post players as any program in the country at the moment, and Jones is ready to continue that.
The freshman lived up to the numbers she has posted all season by scoring 21 points on 10-of-12 shooting. She was a big part of Oregon State's quick start, and even when no one else on the team could buy a shot late in the first quarter through the second quarter, she kept finishing.
"Taylor played phenomenal, as we expected," Rueck said. "The team found her well."
Suddenly an uphill climb for Oregon State
It was just two weeks ago that Oregon State was a win away from taking over the No. 1 ranking. Remember that? A loss at Arizona State closed the door on that possibility. Then Oregon State gave away a lead at home against Stanford.
Now the Beavers, without playing all that poorly for all but a couple of stretches, have lost two in a row for the first time in two seasons and will fall to .500 in the conference if they don't beat the Ducks on Sunday. And it's not as if the schedule, which still includes road games at UCLA and Stanford, gets much easier down the stretch.
Playing Sunday on a short turnaround -- after losing to Stanford and Oregon in the past six days -- is about as stiff a test as any would-be contender has faced this season.
"This program is built on toughness and heart and togetherness," Rueck said. "The team hung in there through the adversity and made a game of it."
Yet as he also conceded, spirit is sometimes as useful as the made shots that accompany it. Against both Stanford and Oregon, Oregon State's offense too often bogged down -- 14 turnovers against Stanford and 13 against the Ducks that led to 22 points in transition. Careless passes and errant shooting -- 13 of 44 from the 3-point line the past two games -- trump togetherness.
Oregon has plenty to prove on the road
The relative ease of the wins against Stanford and Oregon State in recent days will have a lot of people looking ahead to Oregon's trip to UConn on Feb. 3. No matter what the rankings say, that game will be the guide for a lot of people on whether the Ducks are the team to beat -- as they appeared to be in the preseason.
But we knew the Ducks could win in front of a big crowd in Eugene. And before the Ducks get to Connecticut, let alone New Orleans, they can prove something on the road without even leaving the state Sunday. Other than their 40-point win at Stanford a season ago, Oregon doesn't have a signature road win the past two seasons. If you don't count NCAA tournament games in Portland, even its neutral court record is modest.
Yes, UConn is a huge test, but winning at Oregon State -- where neither Graves nor any of his players have won -- is the first test.
"We're not really happy splitting wins with them," Ionescu said. "That's going to be a testament to us -- we have to continue to get better and we have to continue to play well on the road. We haven't necessarily done that. So we're going to have to take that next step and have to be an elite team on the road as well as at home."