NCAAW: Sabrina Ionescu's surprise, Muffet McGraw's emotion and 3-Stanford vs. 6-Oregon on deck

Cassandra NegleyYahoo Sports Contributor
<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/ncaaw/teams/notre-dame/" data-ylk="slk:Notre Dame Fighting Irish">Notre Dame Fighting Irish</a> head coach Muffet McGraw hasn't seen many wins this season and it's eating at her. (Brad Horrigan/Hartford Courant/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)
Notre Dame Fighting Irish head coach Muffet McGraw hasn't seen many wins this season and it's eating at her. (Brad Horrigan/Hartford Courant/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

There was a lot to keep up on this week between constant upsets and an almost complete rearrange of the rankings. So it was easy to miss a host of other moments, including Sabrina Ionescu’s shock she notched her 22nd triple-double, and a heartbreaking moment from Muffet McGraw that only adds to her status as a legendary coach.

Plus, what to watch features another key Pac-12 clash on Thursday night.

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Sabrina Ionescu’s surprise is refreshing

The triple-double queen added another gem to her crown this weekend. Senior Sabrina Ionescu notched her 22nd career triple-double for Oregon (13-2, 3-1 Pac-12) against then-18th ranked Arizona on Sunday. But she didn’t recognize it during the game and was genuinely surprised she notched her fourth one of the season in a postgame interview with the Pac-12 Network.

Ionescu had 17 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists ... and those six turnovers. It’s not the first time she has noted how close she is to an unwanted quadruple-double.

Basketball’s king shouted out the queen on Twitter. She responded to LeBron James with a “thank you” and “Trying to get like you.”

Ruthy Hebard had her fourth double-double of the season with a team-high 19 points and 14 rebounds. Satau Sabally added 18 points and seven rebounds to complete most of the Ducks’ scoring in a bounce-back win. The conference battling continues on Thursday against Stanford, which you can read more about below.

Muffet McGraw breaks down over Irish struggles

This can’t be easy on Muffet McGraw. It’s so easy to believe the great teams will stay great, that winning will keep coming and that there is no bad season on the horizon. But that’s not reality. What’s real is how much effort and, yes, luck goes into aspects of life on a daily basis. And to have a coach who truly cares is sometimes part of the battle.

For many reasons, it’s not Notre Dame’s year. Replacing five starters is a tall task to begin with. Then add in transfers and injuries to returning players. But McGraw has a standard for her program, and the Fighting Irish (6-11, 1-4 ACC) haven’t come close to it. The squad’s leader for 33 years became emotional and real after a 34-point loss to N.C. State this weekend and put it upon herself to forge forward.

“I'm gonna find an answer, I'm gonna fix it,” she said to close.

At some point in our lives, we’ve probably had a moment like McGraw had this weekend. She’s a class act who cares about those in her care.

Baylor, Iowa players’ 15-10 games

There was no shortage of news to come out of women’s basketball this weekend, and a lot of individual efforts were missed. (Thanks a lot, Sun Devils.)

Baylor’s NaLyssa Smith had 30 points and 15 rebounds in a demolishing of Oklahoma State over the weekend. The Bears (13-1, 2-0 Big 12) are back in business with Lauren Cox shutting down offenses and a No. 2 ranking in the AP poll. Their one blemish is a loss to South Carolina at the Paradise Jam over Thanksgiving, but it’s hard to fault them for that.

Iowa senior Kathleen Doyle also had a big double-double with 31 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds in a double-overtime victory against then-12th ranked Indiana. Doyle dropped 21 points in a win over ranked Maryland on Thursday night, too, and scored a season-high 33 against Illinois on New Year’s Eve. The 5-foot-9 guard averages 18.1 points per game, top 50 in the country.

What to watch this week

No. 3 Stanford (15-1, 4-0) at No. 6 Oregon (13-2, 3-1)

Thursday at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN

It’s about to get really good. The last meeting between these two was in the 2019 Pac-12 championship game, which the Cardinal won, 64-57. Notably, their double-double performer in that game, Alanna Smith (20 points, 14 rebounds, three assists, three blocks), has graduated and Oregon’s high scorer, Sabrina Ionescu (27 points, 12 rebounds, five assists, one steal) is back.

The Ducks have one of the best offenses this season, scoring a second-best 86.5 points per game and leading the country with a 50.1 percent shooting clip. Seventeen turnovers and a faulty fourth quarter doomed them against a stout Arizona State team over the weekend.

Head coach Kelly Graves voiced concern before the Pac-12 conference opener, telling The Oregonian he thought his team looked a little bored.

“I don’t think we’ve played anywhere near our best basketball this year,” Graves said. "We had one magical night back in November (against the U.S. Women’s National Team) and put it together and played super, super well. Since then I think we’ve at times kind of slept walked.”

Stanford is coming off back-to-back wins against Cal in front of the biggest Bears crowd this season (men’s or women’s). The Cardinal are a deep squad with all but two players averaging double-digit minutes. They’re a group built on defense, which coach Tara VanDerveer preached as a key early in the season, and match up well with Oregon’s strengths.

Stanford holds opponents to 34 percent from 2-point range, a problem for a Ducks team that averages a nation-best 59.2 percent of their points from there, per Her Hoop Stats. The Cardinal allow an average of 8.9 assists to opponents (sixth), while Oregon records a second-best 21.4 with a 1.75 assist-to-turnover ratio.

Something else to watch out for: Stay tuned at halftime for insight from Seattle Storm point guard Sue Bird. Bird played both of these teams this fall with the U.S. national team as part of its exhibition tour. The USA defeated Stanford, 95-80, and lost to Oregon, 93-86.

No. 13 Florida State (15-2, 4-2 ACC) at No. 9 N.C. State (15-1, 4-1 ACC)

Thursday at 6 p.m. ET on ACC Network

It’s been a back-and-forth series between the ACC teams since 2012 and they match up well statistically at this point in the season. The Seminoles need another statement win after losses to unranked ACC opponents Syracuse and Georgia Tech within a week of each other. They’re led by Nausia Woolfolk (15.7 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 2.8 APG, 2.0 SPG), Kiah Gillespie (15.1 PPG, 8.9 RPG) and Nicki Ekhomu (14.2 PPG).

Elissa Cunane is the player to stop on the Wolfpack with team-best averages of 17.2 points and 10.6 rebounds in 25.8 minutes per game. She shoots 63.4 percent and hits three-quarters of her free throws. Those are also team highs, along with a total 15 blocks.

No. 12 Texas A&M (14-2, 2-1 SEC) at No. 11 Kentucky (14-2, 3-1 SEC)

Thursday at 6:30 p.m. on SEC Network

Texas A&M coach Gary Blair said Chennedy Carter suffered a sprained ankle in the first quarter of a loss to LSU. It’s unclear if she’ll be ready to play Thursday. The guard averages 21.9 points per game, ranking seventh in the nation. N’dea Jones controls the boards for the Aggies, averaging 10.6 rebounds per game. Only one other player averages more than five.

Kentucky’s catalyst is Rhyne Howard, averaging 23.8 points per game, third-best in the country and the most of any Power Five school (plus UConn). She averages a team-best 5.8 rebounds per game and has 36 total steals. The Wildcats shoot 37.9 percent from beyond the arc, good for 14th in the country. Howard is 42.1 percent from 3, and Sabrina Haines is a threat from deep too. Haines averages 10.3 points per game and Chasity Patterson averages 10.6.

For consideration: Oklahoma at No. 17 West Virginia (Wednesday, 7 p.m.), Georgia Tech at Syracuse (Thursday, 7:30 p.m., ACC), No. 22 Iowa at Minnesota (Thursday, 8 p.m.), Notre Dame at Duke (Thursday, 8 p.m. ACC), almost any game.

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