BRIDGEPORT, Conn. -- Ruthy Hebard was born in Chicago but was less than a week old when her adopted family brought her to Fairbanks, Alaska, to live.
When the 18-year-old University of Oregon women's basketball team's freshman center arrived in the 49th state the biggest name in Alaska high school ball was Jessica Moore, who was the 1999 and 2000 state Gatorade Player of the Year before moving on to the University of Connecticut.
"I have heard of her," Hebard said on Sunday. "She was a great player and played at UConn. I've never met her. I wish I could."
If Moore is following her alma mater in the NCAA tournament, she'll have a chance to see Hebard in action. The top-seeded Huskies take on No. 10 Oregon in the Bridgeport Regional final Monday night at Webster Bank Arena.
Hebard leads the Ducks (23-13) in scoring (15) and rebounding (8.7). She was a three-time Gatorade Player of the Year at West Valley High and had her jersey retired. Last summer, she was a teammate of UConn Class of 2017 signee Megan Walker with USA Basketball's U-18 national team and helped Team USA to a gold medal at the FIBA Americas Championship in Valdivia, Chile.
Moore had Oregon on her list of four finalists before she chose UConn. She scored 1,223 points and still ranks 11th on the Huskies' all-time list in rebounds (834), 14th in blocks (125) and 12th in games played (145). She won three national championships at UConn and is often remembered for injuring her right ACL with 6:33 left in the 2004 final against Tennessee and returning from the locker room to play the final 3:11.
The Palmer, Alaska, native was a second-round pick of the Charlotte Sting in the 2005 WNBA Draft and enjoyed a nine-year career in the league.
"I think Jessica can inspire anyone, from Alaska or anywhere, with what she accomplished," Hebard said. "If you work hard enough, you can be what you want to be.
"I would like to thank her for what she's done for basketball in Alaska. She's a great role model for us. I would love to be able to get to where she was someday."
Hebard had 16 points and eight rebounds Saturday as the Ducks advanced to their first Elite Eight with a 77-63 win over No. 3 Maryland. In the tournament, she is averaging 19.7 points and 10 rebounds. She scored the game-winning basket with 5.5 seconds left as Oregon edged seventh-seeded Temple 71-70 in the first round, then posted a double-double of 20 points and 15 rebounds as the Ducks ousted subregional host and No. 2 Duke 74-65.
She is one of three freshman starters for Oregon with classmates Sabrina Ionescu and Mallory McGwire. UConn coach Geno Auriemma is among those joking that the Ducks' success is coming from being so hard and not knowing about NCAA tournament pressure.
"It's fun to hear him talk like that," Hebard said with a smile. "It is our first time on this stage so maybe we don't know what we're doing as much. We're just going out and playing hard. If we keep doing that, hopefully we'll succeed."
UConn's 86-71 win over No. 4 UCLA Saturday allowed Auriemma to reach a pair milestones.
The victory was No. 990 in his 32-year career as he tied North Carolina's Sylvia Hatchell for third place on the all-time wins list. Hatchell's overall record is 990-374 compared to Auriemma's 990-134, and Auriemma's .881 winning percentage is tops all time.
"It's one of those things that you're too busy doing whatever you're doing that you don't have the opportunity to stop and think about all the numbers and what they mean," Auriemma said. "That's a lot of wins, obviously, and I hope there are a lot more."
Auriemma also tied late Tennessee coach Pat Summitt with 112 NCAA tournament wins. Auriemma owns a 112-17 mark with 11 national championships in 29 appearances while Summitt was 112-23 with eight national championships in 31 appearances before retiring in 2012.
"Tennessee was the preeminent program for a number of years and they were in the NCAA tournament and Final Four every year it seemed like," Auriemma said. "The fact we're able to be there at that number and that level, especially given where we started from, is really good. To be compared to maybe the best ever (in Summitt) means a lot."
Of course, Auriemma can break those ties and the Huskies can match the Lady Vols' record 18 Final Four bids with a win Monday night.
Noise from northern Nevada
UConn junior forward Gabby Williams and Oregon freshman forward Mallory McGwire went to rival high schools in bordering towns -- Reed High in Sparks and Reno High respectively -- in Nevada. Their rivalry wasn't fierce as Williams missed much of her last two scholastic seasons and McGwire's first two with knee injuries, though the first ACL tear in the right knee came against Reno on Jan. 19, 2013.
They'll meet Monday night with a Final Four berth on the line. Since their last meeting, Williams has emerged as an All-American candidate for the Huskies while McGwire has been a solid contributor as a freshman to the Ducks' postseason run.
"Gabby did go through those knee injuries which were devastating," McGwire said. "To see her come back and bounce back and go to UConn and make the impact she has is amazing, not only for Connecticut but for northern Nevada. She's made a huge impact on northern Nevada sports."
Williams had 17 points, nine rebounds and six assists in UConn's win over UCLA. McGwire had four points and three rebounds in Oregon's upset of Maryland.
"In northern Nevada you usually don't get that much attention," Williams said. "We both had to go play for AAU teams in California in order for us to get noticed. It's cool that we're getting recognition."
McGwire is the daughter of former NFL quarterback Dan McGwire and the niece of baseball slugger Mark McGwire.
She smiled when told that Williams would get a homecoming at Nevada-Reno next season.
"To be able to go home ... It would be awesome if I got to do that," McGwire said. "For Gabby, it's more special with her dad and sister having played at UNR. To have her go home and play in front of them, play in front of a northern Nevada crowd, is more special."
The UConn-Oregon winner will take on Oklahoma City Regional champion Mississippi State in one national semifinal Friday at American Airlines Center in Dallas. The Bulldogs reached the Final Four for the first time by eliminating Baylor. … Napheesa Collier scored 27 points in the win over UCLA and she is 27 points away from becoming the seventh UConn sophomore to reach 1,000 points. ... Oregon is the third double-digit seed to reach the Elite Eight.