No. 2 Stanford women’s basketball (25-3, 16-0 Pac-12) defeated the Washington Huskies (7-15, 2-12 Pac-12) in the final game of the regular season at home. Despite entering the contest last in the Pac-12, the Huskies kept things close for the majority of the game, but Stanford ultimately prevailed 63-56.
“If that is our 12th best team then we got one hell of a league,” said Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer, referring to the Huskies’ performance.
The Cardinal started out strong in the first quarter, going on a 7-2 scoring run and forcing four turnovers in the first four minutes of the game. But the next few minutes were a different story. The Huskies went on a run themselves, scoring seven straight until junior guard Haley Jones sunk a three. Following a defensive stop, the quarter ended with Washington on top, 17-16.
After starting out the second quarter in a slump, Stanford turned on the engines and stormed back with tenacity. Its energy came after a controversial foul call on junior forward Francesca Belibi left the crowd and bench speechless. Vanderveer instituted a full-court press, which turned the tide of the game and sparked a 6-2 run. Highlighted by senior guard Lacie Hull’s defense and sophomore forward Cameron Brink’s multiple blocks, Stanford cut the lead down to two points and induced an eruption from the crowd. The first half ended with Stanford down 34-32.
The Cardinal struggled offensively in the first two periods, shooting just 13-of-40 from the field and 4-of-13 from beyond the arc.
“You score basketball points by putting the ball in the basket,” Vanderveer said. “And we were not good at putting the ball in the basket today. Thank goodness we did some other things.”
These “other things,” as Vanderveer called them, included the Cardinal’s defensive efforts. Stanford forced nine turnovers in the first half while only committing two fouls. The Cardinal amassed four blocks, all by Brink, as well as six steals and 19 rebounds.
Stanford opened the third quarter by immediately tying the score at 34-34. Senior guard Lexie Hull scored the first seven points for the Cardinal and played physically on both sides of the ball. For the first eight minutes of the quarter, great defense from both teams left the score fairly even. However, towards the end of the frame, the crowd exploded in cheers and stomps as Stanford made multiple defensive stands, giving them a two-basket lead. The Cardinal forced five turnovers in the third quarter through their physical play and Vandeveer-taught intuition.
The fourth quarter started with the Huskies taking back the lead, thanks in part to the energy of their bench. In response, the home crowd came alive again and cheered louder than before. Every Stanford score and defensive stop was followed with cheers, claps and stomps from the Cardinal faithful. Most notably, after sixth-year guard Anna Wilson intercepted a pass and scored in a pivotal moment to take back the lead, everyone was on their feet.
“That was a fantastic steal,” Vanderveer said. “Anna to me is the defensive player of the year in our conference.”
Wilson’s interception — reminiscent of Malcolm Butler’s own on Wilson’s brother, Russell Wilson, in Super Bowl XLIX — completely changed the Cardinal’s trajectory. This steal sparked a 10-0 run to end the game and keep Stanford undefeated in conference play. When the final buzzer rang, the Cardinal emerged victorious 63-56 despite having faced shooting struggles throughout the game.
“Our field goal percentage was just abysmal,” Vanderveer said. “Shooting just was not there. Not at two, not at three, and not from the free throw line.”
The Cardinal shot just 24-of-70 on the day, going 5-of-24 from beyond the arc and 10-of-16 from the charity stripe. This comes in contrast to Stanford’s season averages of 45.5% on field goals, 35.1% from three and 68.2% from the line.
“I recruited everyone for offense,” Vanderveer said. “That is something that we will just have to get going.”
Despite their poor offense, the Cardinal’s defense shined in the most important moments. The Cardinal forced 19 turnovers with 13 steals and six blocks.
“A lot of this win had to do with our defense,” Vanderveer said.
Brink led the way with her second consecutive double-double, providing 17 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks. Following her, Lexie Hull scored 15 points and added eight rebounds and five steals in what may be her final career regular season game.
After the game, the Maples Pavilion crowd stayed back to celebrate the team’s dominance so far in this season. The team finished the regular season with no losses in Pac-12 play. This impressive resume landed the Cardinal their 20th regular-season Pac-12 championship and the number one seed in the Pac-12 Tournament.
Following the celebration, a ceremony was held to honor the seniors who have devoted their last four years to helping Vanderveer and the Cardinal win multiple Pac-12 Championships and the 2021 NCAA Championship.
In Wilson’s third and final senior day, she was honored for being one of the best defenders Stanford basketball has ever seen. Wilson is the record holder for the most games played for Stanford and has started 55 of them. During her six years at Stanford, she has earned an array of accolades: Wilson was chosen as the 2021 Co-Defensive Player of the Year, selected to the 2021 Pac-12 All-Defensive Team and named a 2019 Pac-12 All-Academic Honorable Mention.
Fifth-year forward Alyssa Jerome was honored for her leadership. Fans cheered for her time at Stanford and her leadership within the team. Jerome is a two-time Pac-12 Academic Honor Roll awardee and earned a Pac-12 All-Academic honorable mention nod.
Fifth-year guard Jordan Hamilton was honored for her maturity, wisdom and talent. While only at Stanford for one season, she expressed her gratitude for the program just as the team expressed their appreciation for her presence.
Twins Lexie and Lacie Hull were the last to be honored.
Lacie, the 2021 Pac-12 Sixth Woman of the Year, was honored for her presence and resilience throughout her time at Stanford. She is a two-time Pac-12 Defensive Honorable Mention, a member of the 2019 Pac-12 All-Freshman Team and a two-time member of the Pac-12 Academic Honor Roll.
Lexie, a three-time All-Pac-12 performer, was honored for her major contributions at Stanford. She was on the 2021 Final Four team and the third ever Pac-12 Academic Honor Roll. She is also a two-time All-Pac-12 team member, a part of the 2021 NCAA All-Tournament Team and was chosen to the 2021 Pac-12 All-Tournament Team. This year, she was on the Naismith Trophy Watch List, the Wooden Award Watch List and the Ann Meyers Drysdale Award Watch List.
“I think everyone knew how important this was to the seniors,” Vanderveer said, referring to the final game of the regular season.
Following the emotional season ending, the Cardinal look towards the Pac-12 Tournament, where they will first face off against either No. 8 seed Oregon State (13-12, 6-9 Pac-12) or No. 9 seed Arizona State (12-14, 4-9 Pac-12).
Tip-off is slated for 2:30 p.m. PT in Las Vegas.