Senior center Jayne Appel led both teams with 19 points and added eight rebounds as Stanford (26-1, 16-0 Pac-10) downed the Sun Devils (16-10, 8-7). Junior forward Kayla Pedersen added 12 points of her own in the Cardinal win, which clinched Stanford’s sixth consecutive outright Pac-10 title.
Stanford established control of the game early, jumping out to a 10-0 lead in just four minutes. The outburst was capped by a three-pointer from junior guard Jeanette Pohlen, who scored 11 points on the game. The double-digit performance is the latest in a recent string of solid offense for Pohlen, who scored a career-high 26 points on 10-for-13 shooting last Saturday against the Beavers.
Just as notable as the Cardinal’s early scoring on Thursday were its stifling defense and the Sun Devils’ inability to capitalize on offensive opportunities. During Stanford’s 10-0 run, Arizona State fired and missed six separate shots–including a pair of free throws–gave up two turnovers and burned a time out after Pohlen’s emphatic three-pointer. Things were bad enough, in fact, that after barely two and a half minutes, Arizona State head coach Charli Turner Thorne subbed out her entire team.
Her counterpart on the Stanford side, Tara VanDerveer, was pleased with her team’s defensive effort.
“I thought we played really well defensively,” VanDerveer said. “Jeanette [Pohlen] stepped up when we really needed her defensively. Our defense was the story of the game.”
While the Sun Devils would bounce back to a degree–they outscored Stanford 20-19 for the remainder of the period–their shooting accuracy would continue to lag below average. Arizona State posted a first-half mark of 25.9 percent from the field compared to Stanford’s 50 percent, and finished the game shooting 16 of 52 (30.8 percent, compared to Stanford’s game-total of 50 percent). Senior guard Danielle Orsillo led the Sun Devils with 12 points on four-for-12 shooting.
Appel, the reigning Pac-10 Player of the Year, gave credit for Arizona State’s effort.
“I think that is kind of what is to be expected,” she said. “Everyone’s going to bring their A-game against us. at this point if a team is going to try to get a win against anybody it is going to be against us, especially. It’s a game we need to expect every time we come out onto the floor.”
Arizona State remained competitive to open the second half, bringing the score to 40-32 just under six minutes in, but began to fade late. Stanford put together a 17-7 run to close the game, earning its 17th consecutive win and continuing an undefeated conference season in which it has failed to win by 15 or more points only once.
Despite the solid victory, the final statistics reveal some clear areas where the championship-hopeful Cardinal could improve. Stanford outrebounded ASU just 37-34, gave up 21 turnovers compared to the Sun Devils’ 20, matched them in personal fouls with 14 and shot five-for-11 from the free throw line. The Cardinal did, however, manage to force a total of 12 steals, including four from Appel.
“There was a lot of turning it over and we gave them a lot of O-boards…the turnovers, you’re not going anywhere turning the ball over like that,” VanDerveer said. “We just didn’t get the type of offensive game that we’re used to from Nneka [Ogwumike] or Kayla [Pedersen], they had foul trouble early.”
Pedersen agreed with her coach that if the team is serious about postseason contention, some improvements need to be made.
“I think we’re just mainly upset with our lack of aggression,” she said. “The whole week in practice we’ve been playing against pressure. Our practice players and our other teammates do extremely well, so it was disappointing for us to go out there and show that.”
Fortunately for the Cardinal, its next contest–and the chance for a tune-up–is coming up tomorrow, when Stanford will face Arizona (13-13, 6-9). The Wildcats had a strong start this year, winning both of their exhibition games and starting the season 5-1, but haven’t managed more than two consecutive wins since early December.
The last time Arizona met with Stanford, however, the Wildcats came out strong and posed a considerable challenge early on. They gave Stanford its second halftime deficit of the season at 42-40, but the Cardinal was able to rebound in a big way, starting off the second half with a 10-0 run and earning an 83-62 victory.
Arizona lost to Cal last night by a score of 58-52, meaning that the seventh-place Wildcats are mathematically unable to have a winning conference record this season. Following that game, the Wildcats’ offensive leaders are Davellyn Whyte (16.3 points per game, 3.9 rebounds per game) and Ify Ibekwe (14.0 ppg, 11.6 rpg).
The Cardinal will face off against Arizona at 2 p.m. tomorrow in Tucson, Ariz., then close out the season next weekend against rival Cal.