Temple women are eliminated in NCAA first-round game

NCAA Oregon Temple Basketball
Temple's Alliya Butts (0) and Oregon's Sabrina Ionescu (20) chase the ball during the first half of a first-round game in the NCAA women's college basketball tournament in Durham, N.C., Saturday, March 18, 2017.

DURHAM, N.C. - Five seconds remained, the difference between going home and advancing on the line, and the ball was in the hands of Temple's go-to senior, Feyonda Fitzgerald.

The Owls trailed Oregon, 71-70, after the Ducks had just scored on freshman Ruthy Hebard's shot Saturday night in Duke's fabled Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Fitzgerald took off down the court with the seconds ticking away. It looked as if one of the great moments in the history of the Owls program was about to occur. The path to the basket looked clear.

But Hebard was not done. Chasing after Fitzgerald, who was on the way to connect with the game-winner, the native of Fairbanks, Alaska, got a hand on the ball to disrupt the shot, and in a flash to give the thrill of victory to the Ducks and leave the Owls suffering the agony of defeat.

The triumph moves 10th-seeded Oregon (21-13) on to Monday night's second round-game in the Bridgeport Regional of the NCAA women's tournament here against the second-seeded and host Blue Devils, who easily ousted 15th-seeded Hampton in the second game.

The seventh-seeded Owls (24-8) head home at the close of one of their finer seasons, but one that ended in disappointment, especially for Fitzgerald, one of Temple's all-time stars whose collegiate career concluded.

"If I had to do it again, I'm going to put the ball in Feyonda's hands," Temple coach Tonya Cardoza said of the last play. "We've won games. We've lost games. She's our leader. She's the guy we go to and I wouldn't change anything. She had a great look at it. The guy just made a great play coming over and blocking the shot.

"I know she's upset, but we're going to live and die with her taking the last shot."

The game was closely fought in a matchup of Oregon's tall and talented freshmen-dominated lineup against Temple's short and speedy guards.

"The best we've seen," Oregon coach Kelly Graves said, referring to junior Alliya Butts, who had a game-high 28 points, and Fitzgerald, who had 16 points. Ruth Sherrill was also in double figures with 10 points, while Tanaya Atkinson grabbed 14 rebounds.

Hebard scored 23 for the Ducks, while Mallory McGwire, a 6-5 freshman from Reno, had a double- double with 13 points and 10 rebounds, and Sabrina Ionescu, a candidate for national freshman honors, scored 16 points.

Temple had a 60-54 lead early in the fourth quarter, but the Owls could not get the stops inside needed to stop an Oregon rally.

"We've had to do this several times in the postseason already," Graves said of the Ducks' comeback while referring to Hebard at the finish as "the best five seconds of her life."

Asked to describe the block, Hebard said, "I just swatted it and hoped it wouldn't be a foul or it would have been the worst five seconds."

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