Bruins look to spoil women’s hoops’ perfect season

Dec. 20, 2020, 7:34 p.m.

No. 1 Stanford (6-0, 3-0 Pac-12) will conclude play in 2020 with a matchup against the No. 11 UCLA Bruins (5-1, 3-1 Pac-12) at Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles on Monday. The 12 p.m. PT matchup features two of the five ranked teams in the conference and will be the Cardinal’s first major test of the season. 

The Cardinal have blown out each of their first six opponents, with Saturday’s 20-point win at USC representing the smallest margin of victory thus far. The 80 points that Stanford scored in that matchup marked a season-low point total for the Cardinal, who have broken the 100-point barrier three times and scored at least 83 points in all five previous matchups.

While the Cardinal still own a perfect record, the team has shown some cracks in its past two games. On Tuesday, as head coach Tara VanDerveer broke Pat Summitt’s record for most career wins in NCAA women’s basketball, Stanford let Pacific (1-1, 0-0 WCC) hang around for much of the first half and held just an 11-point lead at halftime before putting the game out of reach early in the second half. 

Again, on Saturday, the Trojans trailed by only eight at the half and closed the gap to 37-32 early in the third quarter before Stanford was able to put the game away. The Cardinal, who had made nearly 48 percent of its shots in the first five games of the season, were held below 40 percent against USC and only make 12 of 38 attempts in the first two quarters. However, a stout defense that held the Trojans to 2-14 shooting in the first quarter and 9-29 in the first half overall kept the Cardinal in the game and allowed them to leave the Galen Center with a win.

The competition will be tougher this week, with UCLA riding a four-game winning streak after a close conference-opening loss to No. 6 Arizona. The Bruins won a close game shortly thereafter against Arizona State, who also received votes in the most recent AP poll, on Dec. 6 and have since won their last three games by an average of 37 points.

UCLA returned four starters, including Third-Team All-American Michaela Onyenwere, from a 2019-20 team that finished 26-5 overall, 14-4 in conference play and 14-1 at home. Onyenwere has scored in double figures in each of the Bruins’ first six games this season and is coming off of an 18-point performance in UCLA’s 71-37 blowout win against Cal. 

The Cardinal will need junior guard Kiana Williams to be on top of her game once again to beat the Bruins, although the team has proved that it is able to win, albeit against lesser competition, when Williams’ shots are not falling. While sophomore guard Haley Jones continues to prove why she was the No. 1 overall recruit in the Class of 2019 and currently leads the team with 16.7 points and 9.3 rebounds per game, Stanford is a better team with Williams as a major scoring option. She finally found her groove against USC, scoring a season-high 27 points — just two shy of her career-high — in 39 minutes.

While the Cardinal own a 63-26 all-time record against the Bruins, its 26 losses are the most all-time versus one team. Stanford did not win any of its first 13 games against the Bruins in a series that dates back to early 1978. UCLA also experienced a 21-game losing streak against the Cardinal from 2008 until 2016, but in the last four years, the teams have split the eight matchups.

Last season, the Bruins won in Maples Pavilion but the Cardinal emerged victorious in their second-round matchup of the 2020 Pac-12 Tournament to dash the Bruins’ hopes for a Pac-12 title.

Contact Sofia Scekic at sscekic ‘at’ stanford.edu.

Sofia Scekic is the deputy managing editor for the sports section. She is a senior from Wisconsin studying Public Policy. An avid Green Bay Packers fan, she has watched nearly every game for the past nine years. Contact her at sscekic 'at' stanforddaily.com.

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