Legends are made in tournaments, and Cameron Brink is already writing hers. The freshman forward scored 24 points, the most of her increasingly brilliant collegiate career.
She added 11 rebounds for her third career double-double and added four blocks to bring her season total to a Stanford freshman-record 64. Her 11 points in the second quarter were the separation between the two teams at halftime and took the game from tied to another impressive Pac-12 Tournament victory.
No. 4 Stanford (24-2, 19-2 Pac-12) sent home fifth-seeded Oregon State (11-7, 7-6 Pac-12) 79-45 and will advance to play in the championship game Sunday night.
“Cam really has never played quote ‘like a freshman,’” head coach Tara VanDerveer said. “First of all, she has great hands, she really understands the game, she listens. She’s been working on counter moves, which she did today which was really exciting to see. So she’s not just doing her thing, and getting frustrated when someone takes that away. She’s got something else. Her outside shot, her three.
“She brings great emotion. What wasn’t to like? It was very exciting to see her step up on the big stage and play so well.”
Stanford’s poor shooting, including two misses from Brink, allowed Oregon State to hang around in the first quarter and the teams went to the first break tied at 13. Then Brink went on a tear with seven straight made field goals, and by the time she missed again in the fourth quarter, Stanford held a 24-point lead.
In every area where Stanford dominated, Brink was at the center. She recorded six of Stanford’s 23 second-chance points and got her own offensive rebound each time. In total, she had five of Stanford’s 17 offensive rebounds. Oregon State had just five offensive rebounds and four second-chance points as a team.
Brink also runs the floor as well as anyone and recorded five of Stanford’s 19 fastbreak points. The speed of college play, particularly at Stanford’s blistering pace, has been an adjustment for the two-time Gatorade Oregon Player of the Year.
“It’s such a change from high school to college and everything,” Brink said. “It took me a while to adjust, but I’m still adjusting to it. But today I feel like I did okay.”
Stanford needed Brink to be able to run, not only because it is part of their identity, but also to take advantage of an Oregon State weakness. While Stanford was able to rest its starters in the blowout of USC on Thursday, Oregon State was playing its third game in as many days. For the first quarter, Oregon State had the energy to keep up with Stanford. VanDerveer needed her team to run to tire out their opponents.
“When it’s tied after the first quarter, the game is in question. We had to lock in,” VanDerveer said. “For the most part our team has really bought into we’re going to work hard on the defensive end of the floor to create offense. And I think we are running on them and when you tire people out you can take their legs away and they don’t shoot the ball as well. So, our running and defense contribute to our success.”
On a defining play early in the second quarter, Brink stuffed Taylor Jones on one end of the court, ran the floor, received the pass from sophomore guard Haley Jones in the lane and finished in one motion.
“Cameron Brink really stepped up big,” VanDerveer said. “She had a double double. Her play was outstanding, scoring, rebounding, running the floor.”
Another adjustment for the freshman has been just staying on the court. After spending much of the season in foul trouble, Brink worked on the mental side of the game with her coaches. On Friday night, just one whistle went against Brink and she surpassed 25 minutes for the second time all season.
“It’s taken a lot of mental work,” Brink said. “It’s an adjustment to be able to play smart and not get frustrated. I’m thankful for my coaches for teaching me how to do that. And tonight it was hard because Taylor Jones is such a good post. But my teammates really helped me and doubled in. It wasn’t all me, but I think I’m slowly getting better at it.”
Brink held Taylor Jones off the score sheet in the first half and just six points in the game. Jones was just one of many Beavers to be held below their season average as Oregon State managed its lowest point total of the season.
The Stanford defense keyed in on guard Aleah Goodman, who shot 5-of-14 and was under duress all game. As usual, fifth year guard Anna Wilson played primary defense and junior guard Lacie Hull filled in from her role off the bench. While she is not stuffing the stat sheet, Wilson’s four rebounds, four steals and steady defense for her 20 minutes on the court have propelled Stanford all season.
“We weren’t shooting the ball exceptionally well,” VanDerveer said. “You’ve got to count on your rebounding — we out-rebounded them. You got to count on your defense and again the defensive tone was set for us by Anna and Lacie up top guarding. Goodman is a terrific player… She ended up with 12 points which is what she got in our first game too. No one else in double figures. I think our defense really set the tone for a win. And to hold the team that’s really that good to 45 points is saying something.”
The Cardinal limited guard Talia von Oelhoffen to five points, well below the season average 13.2 for the early enrollee freshman. As a team, Oregon State reached just 31.0% from the floor, shot three free throws and turned the ball over 15 times.
“When you’re playing in our conference, you have to play defense. Someone like Aleah Goodman is a 50% 3-point shooter,” VanDerveer said. “Our team, especially Anna, Lacie and Lexie, especially Anna and Lacie, are the ones that start on the ball. Kiana works hard defensively. Everyone on our team is working hard defensively. Because they know we need them to do that for our team to be successful.”
The defense was most needed early as Stanford sputtered out of the gate shooting the ball. Stanford was 6-of-20 after the first quarter, the starters were 2-of-13 and the game was tied. The team shot just 38.7% from the field in the game, Stanford’s lowest output all season. The Cardinal also missed its first seven threes, but were able to shoot 9-14 the rest of the way from beyond the arc.
Senior guard Kiana Williams broke out of her mini-slump. After scoring three points against USC, she started 2-for-8 on Friday. She was 5-for-11 the rest of the way and finished with 20 points, made five from 3-point land, and added six each of rebounds and assists.
Williams may have passed her slump off to Jones, who scored one point against Oregon State and shot 0-for-7 from the field. Still, she contributed four assists and Stanford showed off its ability to shrug off a low scoring output from a star.
Sophomore guard Hannah Jump connected from range twice and finished with 10 points to reach double figures for the third straight game. Where her minutes trailed off at the end of last season — she did not reach nine minutes in her last six games — they have gone up as Stanford has reached crunch time this year. She has not been below 10 minutes since January and has played at least half the game in each of the last three.
Her work in the offseason has been a constant topic of discussion and now it is paying dividends. Jump’s defense reached another level and she contributed a well-rounded stat line with five rebounds, two assists and a steal.
“Hannah Jump might be the hardest worker on our team. She is in the gym every day working on her shot,” VanDerveer said. “She’s someone that last year really struggled guarding people. This year she can guard people, plus she has the endurance to play the whole game. On the plus/minus, Hannah had the best plus/minus on our team. She is giving us great minutes and really making big plays.”
VanDerveer was able to get all 12 players into the game and the play never suffered. Stanford matched its season low with five turnovers.
On Sunday, Stanford will play in its fifth straight championship game and 18th in program history against the winner of the semifinal matchup between UCLA and Arizona.
But first, a day to rest.