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Oregon Lost to Baylor, and It Freaking Sucks

Sabrina Ionescu and the magical Ducks felt like a team of destiny this season . . . until they ran into Kalani Brown, Lauren Cox, and the formidable Bears in the NCAA tournament semifinals

NCAA Womens Basketball: Final Four-Semifinals-Oregon vs Baylor Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The Ducks lost. This sucks. This fucking sucks. This super fucking sucks. The Oregon Ducks played the Baylor Bears in the semifinals of the Women’s Final Four on Friday night and they lost. They could’ve won. They really could have. Despite the Baylor frontcourt basically being the downtown skyline of a major American city, and despite the Ducks having never been to a Final Four in school history, the Ducks—my beloved Ducks—played well enough, and with enough courage, and with enough fuck-your-feelings attitude, and with enough chainsaw tenacity in their electrons, that they could’ve won. But they didn’t. They lost by five, 72-67. And it sucks. It fucking sucks. It super fucking sucks.

There was a moment during the fourth quarter of Oregon’s Elite Eight game against Mississippi State when it felt like the Ducks were for real going to win the National Championship. It happened with about a minute left in the fourth quarter. The Ducks were ahead by three and looking to put Mississippi State’s head in a bear trap, and so they ran a play to get Sabrina Ionescu the ball out on the perimeter because Sabrina Ionescu leads the NCAA in putting the other team’s head in a bear trap. Ionescu waited for a pick from Ruthy Hebard, her main partner in crime, because she knew that a pick from Hebard would free up enough inches between her and her defender that she’d be able to get a shot off. The pick came and Sabrina attacked it and everything went to plan: The play ended with Sabrina airbombing in a stepback 3 that put the Ducks up by six and in grown-up control of the game.

So when that shot went in and Mississippi State had officially been bear trapped, it very much felt like one of those moments that signaled something bigger than itself. It felt like one of those moments when the universe was letting you peek ahead a few days into the future. The Ducks had played such a pristine game and their best player had such a pristine fourth quarter (Ionescu hit her final five shots of the game) that it all just felt like . . . I don’t know . . . this is going to sound dumb, but it felt like destiny.

It turns out, though, that having destiny on your side is less effective than having Kalani Brown and Lauren Cox on your side, which is who Baylor had and who turned the paint into a goddamn war zone for the entirety of the semifinal. What a nightmare. Destiny is so stupid.

Oregon was such a fun team to watch this year. Sabrina was, of course, brilliant and masterful. And Ruthy was, of course, brilliant and masterful as well. And Maite Cazorla, their unflappable point guard, was, of course, brilliant and masterful too. But so was Oti Gildon (she’d come in for big stretches of various quarters and fuck the other team’s whole day up; she was always who I was most excited to see getting up off the bench). And so was Satou Sabally (she had 12 games where she scored more than 20 points, seven games where she scored over 25 points, and two games where she scored over 30; the Ducks were often at their most frightening when she’d decide that nobody could guard her). And so was Erin Boley (a nightly threat to fireball the eyebrows off your head from deep). And so was Taylor Chavez and Lydia Giomi and Morgan Yaeger. All of them. Coach Kelly Graves, too.

This sucks. This fucking sucks. This super fucking sucks.

Let’s assume that Sabrina, who would almost certainly be the no. 1 pick if she made herself eligible for the WNBA draft, sticks around for her senior year. If she does, Oregon is in the Final Four conversation again next season, right?

Maite and Oti are the only two seniors on the team. And losing them will be extremely terrible to deal with, absolutely. But you still have Sabrina and Ruthy, and you still have Satou and Erin, and you still have Taylor and Lydia and Morgan, and also you’re going to have Satou’s younger sister, Nyara, who, like Satou, is six-foot-four and can play anywhere on the court, and let me tell you something: I certainly do not hate the idea of having two six-foot-four Saballys on the court at the same time. (Satou, as she has grown in power in her sophomore season, is whom I’ve grown most excited about making the leap between now and next season, and let me tell you something else: If things continue in the direction they’ve been moving these past couple months, it’s going to be a fucking wrap for everyone by the time we get to her senior year. You’re going to need a bazooka and 100,000 prayer candles to stop her.) And that’s not even counting whatever other freshmen Kelly Graves ends up bringing into the fold.

The future is eventually going to feel good, is what I’m saying. It’s just that right now sucks. Right now fucking sucks. Right now super fucking sucks.

In the final few seconds of the Oregon-Baylor game, the Ducks had the ball and were down four. And they’d done enough improbable things this season that it honestly and legitimately and sincerely felt like they were going to run a play that was going to end with someone—Sabrina, Satou, Boley—hitting a four-point play to send the game to overtime. That’s how much magic the Ducks carried with them this season. That’s how bright the glow of their aura was. They turned remarkable things into regular things, and regular things into remarkable things. They were so consistently dazzling, and so consistently incredible, that a four-point play to tie the biggest game that any of the Oregon players on the court had ever played in felt preordained. (What’s maybe even more wild is that Sabrina had already hit a four-point play at the end of the first half to give the Ducks a one-point lead going into halftime.)

But it didn’t happen.

And they lost.

The Ducks lost.

And it sucks.

It fucking sucks.

It super fucking sucks.

I miss them already.