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Preview: No. 3 Oregon looks to bounce back against South Dakota State

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The previously top-ranked Oregon Ducks and the South Dakota Jackrabbits are set to square off in a Sweet Sixteen rematch featuring three of the best players in the nation: Ruthy Hebard, Satou Sabally and Sabrina Ionescu.

NCAA BASKETBALL: APR 05 Div I Women’s Championship - Final Four - Oregon v Baylor
Ruthy Hebard (with ball) is emerging as a superstar in her own right — not just Sabrina Ionescu’s sidekick.
Photo by Mary Holt/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The No. 3 Oregon Ducks (6-1) lost to the now-No. 2 Louisville Cardinals on Saturday, Nov. 30, knocking them off the top ranking in the nation. Oregon has had a full week now to move past that loss and will host the South Dakota State Jackrabbits (6-3) today at 3 p.m. —a rematch from last year’s Sweet Sixteen game that Oregon won, 63-53.

South Dakota State is not the same team it was last year. It lost its top two scorers in Macy Miller and Madison Guebert and already has half as many losses as it had entering last season’s NCAA Tournament. But it does have solid wins over the South Florida Bulls and Notre Dame Fighting Irish that helped knock the Bulls out of the top 25 and keep the Irish out of the rankings. The Jackrabbits returned sophomore Paiton Burckhard and junior Myah Selland, who are both scoring in double figures this season. Burckhard has moved into a starting role after playing on the bench most of last year.

For Oregon, this is obviously a must-win game if it is to get back on track and work toward regaining its No. 1 spot. Louisville lost to the unranked Ohio State Buckeyes on Thursday and the Ducks will get to play No. 1 Stanford twice in Pac-12 play, so the top spot is still there for the taking.

Ducks forward Ruthy Hebard is having a phenomenal season, leading the team in both points per game (19.7) and rebounds per game (12.3). Oregon’s second-leading scorer, Satou Sabally, was overseas briefly, but has put up big numbers since returning and her WNBA Draft status is on the rise. As you can see below, she garnered the respect of Dallas Wings guard Skylar Diggins-Smith after Skylar and the U.S. national team fell to Oregon in an exhibition game on Nov. 9.

Rounding out Oregon’s double-digit scorers are Sabrina Ionescu (13.6 points per game) and Erin Boley (10.0 points per game). Both went cold against Louisville, shooting 2-for-13 from long range combined. Boley made just one shot (a three-pointer), while Ionescu had 13 points in the contest on 6-for-20 shooting from the field, as her offensive production remains down from last year. That may not be such a bad thing, though, as long as her assist numbers stay up while getting the ball to Hebard and Sabally.

The Jackrabbits are weak in three key offensive categories: points per game (67.7) three-point shooting (29.7 percent) and free throw shooting (62.0 percent). Oregon has them beat in all three categories and should try to make this a high-scoring game, unlike last year’s Sweet Sixteen showdown.

Here are some highlights from that game:

Game information

No. 3 Oregon Ducks (6-1) vs. South Dakota State Jackrabbits (6-3)

When: Sunday, Dec. 8, at 3 p.m. ET

Where: Matthew Knight Arena, Eugene, OR

How to watch/listen: Pac-12 Networks/Oregon Sports Network