No. 2 Stanford (3-0, 0-0 Pac-12) continued its perfect start to the season with a routine 98-44 win against University of the Pacific (1-1, 0-0 West Coast) in Stockton, Calif. on Friday night.
In the first two games of the season, Stanford burst ahead and never looked back. To start this game, however, the Tigers stifled the Cardinal’s stellar offense and took the lead with a quick 3-pointer. Although the Cardinal responded with a basket from sophomore forward Kiki Iriafen, the Tigers played spirited basketball and the two teams were deadlocked 10-10 after seven minutes.
“It was a very slow start,” admitted head coach Tara VanDerveer.
The turning point came when junior forward Cameron Brink scored an and-one, cueing a huge cheer from the Stanford bench. After a brief scoring drought on both sides, freshman guard Indya Nivar drew a foul and converted both free throws to give Stanford some breathing room.
Stanford’s defense settled in after Pacific’s hot start, with Brink blocking a layup and senior guard Hannah Jump stealing the ball away from Pacific. The Cardinal were on a hot 7-0 streak to end the quarter before the Tigers regained some momentum with a long pass and finish; the first quarter ended 17-12 in Stanford’s favor.
In the second quarter, Stanford’s defense – highly effective, yet sometimes overshadowed by the team’s incredible offensive talent – dominated, preventing Pacific from scoring until the fifth minute of the quarter. All the while, the offense kept rolling, with senior forward Ashton Prechtel scoring Stanford’s first 3-pointer of the game as they extended the lead to 45-20 by halftime.
In the third quarter, Stanford showed off its height and athleticism to extend its lead. First, Iriafen muscled her way to the basket, converting the basket and drawing a foul. Then, the Cardinal exhibited a series of blocks, with junior guard Agnes Emma-Nnopu, Brink and Prechtel each rejecting shots. It was also encouraging to see senior forward Fran Belibi looking strong in the paint after battling an injury since the season’s onset.
Meanwhile, Jump – whose electric shooting helped propel Stanford to victory on Wednesday night – repeated the feat tonight, going a perfect 4-4 from deep. Redshirt freshman guard Jzaniya Harriel also scored a triple. This outpour of three-pointers gave the Cardinal a 78-38 lead at the end of the third quarter.
From there, VanDerveer rested the starters and gave substantial playing time to her bench players. Harriel played point guard for the first time this season, emerging as another option to carry the ball for the Cardinal.
“This is a deep team,” VanDerveer said. “We can really tire people out by playing with a lot of pace.”
As the game slipped away from the Tigers, they were reduced to shooting hopeful three-point attempts, giving Stanford the ability to dictate the game’s tempo. The Stanford defense, despite multiple substitutions and the crooked scoreline, never dropped its intensity. Perhaps the best block of the night came on the Tigers’ final possession courtesy of freshman center Lauren Betts. The Cardinal allowed just six points in the final 10 minutes, the fewest of any quarter.
Stanford shared the points again tonight, with Iriafen leading the team with 15 points, followed by Jump with 14, and Prechtel with 11. Jump had three steals in the game, while Brink and Betts each had three blocks.
Next up, the Cardinal face their first opponent with a winning record, squaring off on Sunday against Portland (2-0, 0-0 West Coast) in Portland, Ore. at 2 p.m. PT.