SAN ANTONIO — Powered by 22 points from forward Sedona Prince, the No. 6 seed Oregon Ducks advanced to the Sweet 16 on Wednesday with a 57-50 win over the No. 3 seed Georgia Lady Bulldogs.
But for Prince, the emotions were raw in the postgame, with her thoughts bouncing between her own personal journey, to her teammates, to the attention brought on by her viral tweet putting a spotlight on the inequities between the men’s and women’s tournament.
“[The opening game on Monday] I was extremely nervous before, because I knew a lot of people would be watching,” Prince said. “So I was nervous. But that’s a good thing. We want more people to watch, so I’ll have to get used to it. I was talking to the trainers and I was just on one before the game, but they calmed me down. My teammates huddled around me and lifted me up.”
Earlier in the week, the San Antonio Spurs arrived to their home game a few miles down the road wearing throwback jerseys of women’s basketball legends like Rebecca Lobo, Cheryl Miller and Becky Hammon.
“That’s amazing,” Prince said when asked about the Spurs’ gesture. “It’s what we want. It’s what we deserve. We work just as hard and we play amazing, and so we deserve just as much credit as the men do.”
Prince has had a heavy amount of attention since her tweet that was retweeted nearly 200,000 times and generated national news. But she has been an advocate for equality in college sports for more than just the past week, using her surgery and recovery from an injury to highlight issues there as well.
“It’s amazing that now I have such a big platform and I’m able to inspire and help so many people and bring attention to my sport because that’s what it deserves,” Prince said.
“I hope they see women’s basketball is not boring. It’s fun. It’s exciting,” she said. “It’s different than men’s basketball, but in an amazing way. We play hard and with our hearts and there’s so many fundamentals. It’s such a different game, so we wanted to show that we’re fun to watch.”
Prince and fellow frontcourt partner Nyara Sabally shared a long hug at the buzzer over the win over Georgia. Both players have overcome personal adversity, with extreme injuries and difficult moments. Sabally suffered two ACL tears, and in 2018, Prince gruesomely broke her tibia and fibula during a tournament game in Mexico City where she had been playing for the United States U18 team at the FIBA Americas championship.
“I saw video of us hugging after the game and that describes us and what we’ve been through,” Prince said through tears. “When I came here we were both so broken and we didn’t know if we were going to play basketball again. She is such a fun player to play with and I just love her so much and watching where we’ve come and leading this team to the Sweet 16 is incredible and it feels so good.”
A native of Texas, Prince spent her freshman year at the University of Texas where she rehabbed her injury, transferring to Oregon in 2019.
“As you guys just saw in that interview, how blessed am I to be coaching a young woman like her. She is really the whole package,” coach Kelly Graves said. “Not only a tremendous player but just think of the pressure she’s had on her. She’s had a lot of attention placed on her and she’s backed it up. And that’s not easy to do. I’m really proud of her and happy for her, and the rest of the team.”
The Ducks entered this season in an uncertain place, losing three starters and welcoming in almost an entirely a new roster. Last season’s team was a title favorite, led by superstar Sabrina Ionescu.
But after advancing through the opening two rounds to claim a spot in the Sweet 16, Oregon is in position to try and reclaim the opportunity last year’s team lost.
“It’s been a difficult season managing expectations. Everybody knows what we lost. Everybody knows what we had the opportunity and capability to do in this tournament last year. It was taken away from us,” Graves said. “And I think at times people just assume we’re going to keep this going … We have nine new players. In a pandemic year this is the worst time to have a young team, we just didn’t have a chance to work with them. But from day one I said a hundred times, we’re going to be a tough out come March.”
Oregon will take on No. 2 seed Louisville on Sunday.