An exhibition game ended in a stunning upset on Saturday when Oregon women's basketball, ranked number one in the country, beat the best team in the world: the US Women's Basketball Team. It marks the first time in 20 years that Team USA, who have won eight Olympic gold medals, have lost to a college opponent.
"I'm kind of speechless," said Oregon star Sabrina Ionescu, who finished the game with 30 points. "I'm super proud of this team and how hard we worked. We never backed down."
Team USA established a lead early on, but by halftime, Oregon was only trailing 42-38. Then Oregon star Sabrina went on her scoring rampage, racking up 20 points in the third quarter alone and paving the way for Oregon to take the lead. Behind another standout performance from teammate Satou Sabally, the buzzer rang with Oregon ahead 93-86, an upset of historic proportions.
Speaking to Pac-12 Networks after the game, Satou admitted that she still had to process her 25-point game against the world's top team. "I would've never thought that I'm capable of doing that," she said. "I'm staying humble. I know they're the greatest team in the world."
Team USA was coming off wins over three other top-10 teams: Stanford, Oregon State, and Texas A & M. Though the US took the loss this time, head coach Cheryl Reeve could see the bigger picture and what this kind of high-profile game meant for the sport. "[Oregon] played great. We were disappointed. We got out-rebounded. But overall, it was a great day for women's basketball," she said in the postgame press conference. This exposure pushes the game forward, she explained; the US Women's Basketball team "might be the greatest dynasty ever in sports, and it's not talked about nearly enough."
Or, as Team USA star Sue Bird half-jokingly put it: "Hey, we lost, maybe people will follow us now!" As to any effect the loss might have on the national team's morale, Sue said she's already looking at it as a learning opportunity. She pointed out that a 2006 loss in the World Basketball Championship fuelled this current team's fire to be the best.
And pitting the nation's top college teams against the best team in the world has positive outcomes all around, Cheryl explained. "We can connect the college game with these pros that play for the national team," she said. "I feel the wave of interest. This is the absolute time to capitalize on that."