Maite Cazorla dominates both ends as Ducks beat Aggies again

LAS VEGAS -- Life as a freshman point guard is rarely a smooth ride. Texas A&M's Chennedy Carter hit one of those bumps Thursday.

Carter has been the Aggies' best player through most of the first two months of her college career, averaging 19.5 points and 5.2 assists. She was also just six days removed from a school-record 46 points at USC and espnW player of the week honors when she ran into an Oregon team that wasn't going to let that happen again. It was a rocky afternoon for Carter, as the balanced and 10th-ranked Ducks cruised to an 84-62 win in the Duel in the Desert at Cox Pavilion on the UNLV campus.

Oregon, with a little help from some Carter foul trouble, never let her find the rhythm that was on display in Los Angeles. She finished with 13 points and three assists. Her frustration was as easy to see as the No. 3 on her jersey.

"They are a little long and got up a little tight on me, but legs and fatigue were a little bit of an issue," said Carter, referring to Texas A&M playing its second game in as many days. "It was an amazing feeling scoring the 46 that night. It helped us through USC, but today was a different story. I will get it together and come through for my teammates next time."

Oregon's Maite Cazorla administered most of that frustration. The Ducks mixed some defenses in the first half and led 41-31 but went primarily man-to-man in the second, and Cazorla made sure there was no Carter-led comeback.

"We knew that she was scoring a lot of points, and we knew her tendencies," said Cazorla, who's from Las Palmas, Spain. "If she makes shots in front of you, then she does. But I knew she likes to go right, so I just played her honest, and it worked out."

With Oregon's Sabrina Ionescu and Ruthy Hebard earning national recognition a year ago as the Ducks reached the Elite Eight, Cazorla tends to get overlooked. On Thursday, she was the best player on the floor at both ends for most of her 39 minutes. The 5-foot-10 junior led all scorers with 26 points on 9-of-14 shooting, and added 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 steals.

"We have so many players who can do so many things," she said. "Today I was just a little more aggressive, especially coming off the pick-and-roll. I was trying to score first, and then when they guarded me I had the extra pass."

"This is the best offensive team I have played in two years. We've played them twice and haven't been able to slow them down." Texas A&M coach Gary Blair on Oregon

When Oregon beat the Aggies 83-68 on Nov. 16 in the preseason WNIT, Hebard's 24 points and a big second half paved the way. This time it was Cazorla and Ionescu and an incredible first quarter that did the job. The Ducks made 14 of 17 shots in the first 10 minutes, with Ionescu scoring 14 of Oregon's 34 points. Ionescu -- who has seven career triple-doubles -- finished the game with 25 points on 6-of-11 from 3-point range.

"Offensively that's about as good as it gets for us in that first quarter," said coach Kelly Graves, whose Ducks are 3-1 against SEC opponents this season. "We spread the floor and made shots and took advantage of some holes they had defensively. And today you got to see just how good Maite is."

Cazorla's scoring average jumped from 8.1 PPG last season to 10.4 PPG this year. Throw in senior Lexi Bando, a career 45 percent 3-point shooter, and freshman Satou Sabally, who scored 14 on Thursday, just moved into the starting lineup and is averaging a just-scratching-the-surface 13.0 PPG, and Oregon has five players who can score from multiple spots on the floor.

"This is the best offensive team I have played in two years," Texas A&M coach Gary Blair said. "We've played them twice and haven't been able to slow them down."

Despite the pair of losses to the Ducks (Carter had 23 points on 9-for-20 shooting in the November loss), Blair remains confident in the future -- both immediate and down the road -- largely because he has Carter to build around.

"Chennedy is already maturing. This one was a learning experience, but think about where she can go," Blair said. "She's a gym rat. She loves the game. The face of our team is going to be Chennedy Carter."