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A surprise spokesperson for women's hoops, Liberty Hill's Sedona Prince shines in Oregon win

John Harris
American-Statesman Correspondent
Oregon forward Sedona Prince shoots over Georgia's Javyn Nicholson during the Ducks' 57-50 win in the second round of the NCAA Tournament at the Alamodome on Wednesday. The Liberty Hill native tied a career high with 22 points in the victory.

SAN ANTONIO — Overcome with emotion, Oregon redshirt sophomore Sedona Prince attempted to put into proper perspective her greatest collegiate performance in her first time playing in the NCAA Tournament after wondering if she would ever play basketball again.

Emotion won out.

"It makes me want to cry," Prince said after matching her career-high 22 points and putting her 6-foot-7 frame to good use with dominant post play, particularly in the fourth quarter when she scored eight consecutive points to help secure the sixth-seeded Ducks' 57-50 win over No. 3 seed Georgia on Wednesday at the Alamodome.

Oregon (15-7) advances to the Sweet 16 and will face No. 2 seed Louisville (25-3) Sunday.

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Prince, who starred at Liberty Hill, where she went 115-11 in three years, dreamed of doing the same thing down the road at Texas. However, before she ever had a chance to dribble the ball for the Longhorns, she suffered a broken right leg in August 2018 playing for the U.S. under-18 national team at the FIBA Americas Championship, forcing her to sit out her freshman season. Deciding to transfer to Oregon, Prince sat out for a second consecutive year after being denied immediate eligibility by the NCAA.

Entering this season, Prince didn't know what to expect, or how she would fit in.

She missed four games early in the Pac-12 campaign with an ankle injury, and Oregon, searching for an identity, lost five of its last six games entering the NCAA Tournament. 

Amid Oregon's identity crisis, Prince became a household name when she posted a video showing the disparity between the weight rooms at the men's and women's tournaments right before the Ducks' opening game against South Dakota.

After her clutch performance against Georgia, Prince, a surprise spokesperson for women's basketball, displayed on the court what all the fuss is about.

Oregon forward Sedona Prince, center, celebrates with teammates after the Ducks defeated Georgia on Wednesday. Oregon advanced to the Sweet 16 to play Louisville.

"I hope they see women's basketball is exciting," said Prince, who hit 9 of 14 from the field, grabbed five rebounds and blocked four shots in 37 minutes. "It's not boring. It's fun. It's different from men's basketball, but in an amazing way. We play hard, with our hearts. There's so many fundamentals; it's such a different game. Today me and my team showed we're fun to watch.

"Last year when I wasn't able to play knocked me down pretty hard. I was broken multiple times. When I transferred, I was looking for a new home for happiness for someone to just take me with open arms and hug me again. That's what I found. Now I have such a good platform, and I'm able to inspire people and bring so much attention to my sport because that's what it deserves. We deserve just as much credit as the men do. This year deserves so much attention because its unlike anything else.

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"Because of COVID, it's been a struggle. No fans. My parents haven't really been able to see me play. Playing in my home state in the gym that I played in in high school is so amazing."

Asked to analyze Prince's performance, Oregon coach Kelly Graves was more impressed with her ability to perform under the white-hot spotlight created when she called out the NCAA.

"Just think of the pressure she's had on her, being so outspoken," Graves said. "She's had a lot of attention placed on her, and she has backed it up. That's not easy to do."

"I was extremely nervous," Prince admitted. "But my teammates trust me 100%."

One teammate in particular — fellow redshirt sophomore Nyara Sabally, a 6-5 forward also in her first college season after suffering knee injuries in back-to-back years — kept Georgia off-balance with 15 points and nine rebounds.

"It's been difficult for both of us," Prince said. "We didn't know if we were going to play basketball again. Watching from where we've come from and leading this team to the Sweet 16 is incredible."