Editor's note: Charlie Creme, Graham Hays and Mechelle Voepel each vote to determine espnW's national player of the week, which is awarded every week of the women's college basketball season.
To be clear, this is an award for the player of the week in women's college basketball. The winner is determined regardless of past performance or reputation.
But it's darn fitting that Sabrina Ionescu claimed it the week Oregon clinched the Pac-12 title.
The final espnW player of the week award of the 2017-18 season goes to a player who has been part of the deliberations seemingly every week but had yet to end up on top of the podium. In a home game against UCLA last Monday and weekend road games against Arizona and Arizona State, Ionescu averaged 18.3 points, 9.3 assists, 6.0 rebounds and just 2.0 turnovers in 39.3 minutes per game.
When the Ducks needed to grind out wins in the desert to officially clinch their first outright Pac-12 title since 1999-2000 and the most wins in program history, Ionescu did that. Her high-risk, high-reward reputation yielded to simple efficiency against Arizona State on Friday, just one turnover and five missed shots in 37 minutes as a one-point halftime deficit became a 57-44 win. With a letdown possible at the end of a long week, she hit four 3-pointers, matching a high for the calendar year, to help Oregon ease past Arizona on Sunday.
Oregon counts on such consistency every game, which is why she averaged 38.5 minutes per game during Pac-12 play. But it was her performance last Monday against UCLA, a game that meant everything even if it clinched nothing, that showed why she is the kind of player a program can build a conference championship around.
Matched opposite UCLA's Jordin Canada, another program-defining guard desperate for a win to keep the Bruins in the Pac-12 race after a loss days earlier at Oregon State, Ionescu wasn't the star from start to finish. She was largely content to set up others as the Ducks raced to an early lead in the first half and then she struggled to hit shots as the Bruins rallied behind Canada in the second half. Yet Ionescu still finished regulation with 12 assists and no turnovers, her second-best margin of the season and under more meaningful circumstances than a December game against Weber State.
In a game with such a fast pace that it made any wasted possession significant, she wasted naught. She didn't even commit a foul in the game's first 40 minutes.
She did enough to get Oregon to overtime. She did enough to get the program to the precipice of a Pac-12 title. Then she put the Ducks over the top in the next five minutes.
After coming up with a steal on UCLA's opening overtime possession, she hit a shot to give Oregon a lead it wouldn't relinquish -- she made sure of that by scoring seven points in overtime, three more than the Bruins.
"Sabrina kind of put us on her back that last five minutes," Oregon coach Kelly Graves said.
It would be unfair to the depth of talent he has assembled in rebuilding the program, to Ruthy Hebard, Satou Sabally and the rest, to say Ionescu has been putting Oregon on her back for a lot longer than five minutes. She isn't the sole reason the Ducks are now a national power.
But if the past week proved anything, it's that they wouldn't have won the Pac-12 without her.
Also nominated: Lexie Brown, Duke; Marie Gülich, Oregon State; Jessica Lindstrom, Green Bay; Teaira McCowan, Mississippi State
Previous winners: Louisville's Durr (Nov. 20) | Ohio State's Mitchell (Nov. 27) | Florida State's Thomas (Dec. 4) | Oklahoma State's Goodwin (Dec. 11) | Texas A&M's Carter (Dec. 18) | Western Illinois' Clemens (Dec. 26) | Stanford's McPhee (Jan. 1) | Houston's Harris (Jan. 8) | Louisville's Durr (Jan. 15) | Florida State's Thomas (Jan. 22) | Baylor's Kristy Wallace (Jan. 29) | Stanford's Brittany McPhee (Feb. 5) | South Florida's Kitija Laksa (Feb. 12) | UConn's Katie Lou Samuelson (Feb. 19)