Cardinal cruise to victory over UNLV ahead of Pac-12 opener

Dec. 5, 2020, 8:48 p.m.

In No. 2 Stanford’s (2-0, 0-0 Pac-12) first game in 10 days, the Cardinal opened with an 11-0 run against UNLV (1-2, 0-0 MWC) and didn’t look back. The Cardinal reached triple digits for the second straight game and ended with a resounding 101-54 victory in Las Vegas.

Sophomore guard Haley Jones finished with a team-highs in points (25) and assists (seven) in an efficient 12-17 shooting performance in what head coach Tara VanDerveer called “a breakout game.”

“Haley plays really efficient basketball. She can see the floor really well: she had great assists, attacked the basket really well,” VanDerveer said. “She makes other people look good. A great player is a player that makes others around them look good, and Haley does that.”

Jones also chipped in two blocks and two steals and, more importantly, did not turn the ball over once. Her decision-making and ball control have been areas of focus during her rehab and the offseason. 

“I’m able to wait a second longer, find [my teammates] in their open places, where they like to work on the floor,” Jones said.

Sophomore forward Fran Belibi started off the scoring for both sides with back-to-back layups for the Cardinal to jump out to a 4-0 lead. A Jones layup, followed by scores from junior guards Lexie and Lacie Hull, gave Stanford a double digit lead before the Lady Rebels were able to get on the board. 

Stanford led 20-9 at the end of the first quarter and widened the gap to 26 at the half.

Belibi finished the game with an efficient 15 points on 10 shots to go along with seven rebounds and three steals. Belibi, Lexie Hull and freshman forward Cameron Brink scored in double figures as the team as a whole shot 57% from the field with just 12 turnovers.

“We took care of the ball,” VanDerveer said. However, she noted the Cardinal, “weren’t moving our feet the way we needed to.”

Stanford finished with 22 team fouls, but overall the head coach felt “we did some really good things and we’re going to build on it and get better.”

The win was just Stanford’s second of the season, as the Cardinal have had two cancellations due to a positive COVID-19 case on an opposing team and new Santa Clara County restrictions. Stanford’s only other game was a 108-40 victory against Cal Poly on Nov. 25.

“Just being able to be back on the court with my teammates,” Belibi said. “And being able to play with them and cheer for them and just be out there with them has just been so much fun, no matter how weird it’s been for all of us.”

The game reunited VanDerveer with former Cardinal and current UNLV head coach Lindy La Rocque ‘12. La Rocque played under the Hall-of-Fame coach from 2009-12 and later served alongside VanDerveer as an assistant coach until taking over the head coaching position at UNLV earlier this year.

VanDerveer had nothing but praise for her former player and colleague.

“Lindy’s doing a fantastic job,” she said. “Their team is very disciplined and spaced the floor well. They ran great plays. They’re very aggressive. I think they’re going to have a really great year.”

Guard Nia Johnson led the Lady Rebels in scoring with 12 as guard Bailey Thomas and forward Desi-Rae Young chipped in 10 apiece.

Onto the next

After a long hiatus of play, the Cardinal will now prepare for a quick turnaround against Washington (3-0, 1-0 Pac-12) tomorrow in Las Vegas. Despite being away from Maples Pavilion, the game will be a “home” game for Stanford. The location was changed following the new COVID-19 restrictions in Santa Clara County.

The changes to the schedule and location are being taken in stride by the team, whose motto for the season is “All In.” 

“Coming to Vegas, we’ve been through a lot this past week. It’s really chaotic at some points,” Jones said. “But our team slogan is ‘All In,’ and I think everyone really bought into what we had to do this year because we all want to play.”

The game, which is the second of a rarely scheduled back-to-back game, will test the Cardinal’s depth early on, which has been a high point thus far in the season. Nine Stanford players finished with five or more points in the win against UNLV, and the each person on the roster was on the court for at least nine minutes.

This depth, Jones said, has allowed the team to go “harder, shorter.”

“I can give it my all,” she elaborated. “And then my teammate can come and give it her all, and then I’m getting my rest and coming back in for her. And we’re just constantly coming in and out for each other.”

No player was on the floor longer than senior guard Kiana Williams’ 26 minutes.

As VanDerveer pointed out, given the unpredictable nature of the year, this is the season to have depth. Contributions came from up and down the roster against UNLV. VanDerveer praised the “spark” from fifth year guard Anna Wilson and Brink’s play off the bench, in particular.

Washington, meanwhile, began their conference play on Friday against Cal in an 80-53 victory. On the season, Huskies guard Tameiya Sadler is the team’s top scorer, averaging 18.7 points per game on 65% shooting from the field — while center Quay Miller and forward Haley Van Dyke both also average in double figures. Stanford will be tasked with slowing down this potent Huskies team, which has won its first three games by an average margin of 19 points.

“We have this game under our belt, and we’re ready to prepare for the next one,” Belibi said. “So that’s what we’re going to go out and do.”

“I think our team was excited to play. They’re really enjoying being with each other,” VanDerveer said. “We’re trying to get better, so we’re just thankful for the opportunity to play and looking forward to our Pac-12 opener tomorrow.”

Tip-off is scheduled for 2:00 p.m. PT.

With Saturday’s victory VanDerveer moved to 1,096 career wins, just three away from becoming the winningest coach in the history of women’s college basketball. She currently only trains Pat Summitt’s 1,098 total victories.

Contact Jeremy Rubin at jjmrubin ‘at’

Jeremy Rubin was the Vol. 260 Executive Editor for Print and Sports Editor in Vol. 258 and 259. A junior from New York City, he studies Human Biology and enjoys long walks, good podcasts and all things Yankees baseball-related. Contact him at jrubin 'at'

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