In front of a sold-out Maples Pavilion, No. 2 Stanford women’s basketball (5-1, 0-0 Pac-12) narrowly lost in overtime to No. 1 South Carolina (4-0, 0-0 SEC) 76-71. After leading by as many as 10, the Gamecock defense stopped the Cardinal — forcing overtime and eventually winning the game.
“It is very disappointing to have the lead that we had and not finish the job,” said head coach Tara VanDerveer.
Like all of Stanford’s home games this year, both teams started by honoring and praying for Brittney Griner to get home safely. Both VanDerveer and South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley wore the same shirt with Griner on it. The latter also wore a hat after the game that said “FREE BG,” further making a statement on the matter that goes beyond just basketball.
“I am wearing this shirt because it has been 279 days since Brittney Griner has been incarcerated in Russia,” VanDerveer said. “Hopefully, we brought some good attention to that.”
“[VanDerveer] and I both know Brittney,” Staley said. “And she is in a fight for her life. I know there are other Americans who are wrongfully detained, and obviously, we want them all to come home. But when you have a relationship and friendship with someone — it is personal.”
The first quarter started out hot with the Cardinal and Gamecocks trading scores. One of the most difficult tasks for Stanford this game was figuring out how to contain South Carolina’s forward Aliyah Boston — the reigning national player of the year. Initially, this task was given to sophomore forward Kiki Iriafen and senior forward Ashton Prechtel. With the crowd cheering loudly and wildly, the forwards played physically throughout the game, getting Boston into early foul trouble.
“[Boston] is so big and so strong that you have to double her,” VanDerveer said. ”And that is a gamble. Some of their players hit threes… and that was the gamble. [Boston]’s going to be the number one draft pick. She is tough and very strong and aggressive, and that is a great person for people on our team like Kiki or Lauren Betts to watch and say ‘That is what I need to be doing.’”
Junior forward Cameron Brink was electric on offense in the first quarter, scoring 12 points in the period — more than half of the Cardinal’s total. Towards the end of the quarter, Stanford rallied on a 9-0 run — as the crowd cheered loudly — securing a sizable 21-11 lead when the buzzer rang.
The second quarter initially looked great for the Cardinal. After a turnover and a foul from the Gamecocks, the Stanford defense looked impenetrable. However, this was soon proven false when South Carolina scored nine points in a row to cut the lead to one point. Thankfully for Stanford, Iriafen scored and got fouled — which turned into a rare five-point drive after senior guard Haley Jones rebounded the and-one free throw attempt and passed the ball to senior guard Hannah Jump who promptly sunk a 3-pointer. Behind excellent guard play — from the aforementioned two and freshman guard Talana Lepolo — the Cardinal fought back and widened the gap again, ending the half on top 35-31.
“I will give a shoutout to [Lepolo],” VanDerveer said. “I thought she played extremely well.”
The Cardinal played extra physical this half, drawing nine fouls while only committing five. However, Stanford turned the ball over 11 times during the half, illustrating the tenacity of the Gamecock defense.
“We needed to do a much better job at taking care of the basketball,” VanDerveer said. “We turned it over too much.”
Beginning the third quarter, the Cardinal started with a great second chance shot from Iriafen, which was quickly followed by a South Carolina score. No team could seem to get in a true rhythm this quarter, with each team trading scores, keeping the Gamecocks behind but never out of reach. At the end of the back-and-forth affair, Iriafen made a layup in the final seconds, extending the lead 54-44 going into the final 10 minutes.
With Brink in foul trouble, different forwards saw more playing time, especially late in the game. Prechtel in particular played exceptionally well — leading the team with five blocks. Most of these blocks were emphatic and strong — swatting away and denying shooters from the rim.
However, even though the defense played well this quarter, the offense was cold. Stanford got their first points in the quarter with just over seven minutes left on the clock when Brink made a shot from the charity stripe. In the quarter as a whole, the Cardinal were limited to seven points. Ultimately, with two seconds left in the game, Boston came up big and made a second-chance shot to force overtime, tied at 61.
“Dawn [Staley] did a great job with her team,” VanDerveer said. “They stepped up and made plays when they needed to.”
In overtime, Brink struck first with two free throws and then a layup in quick succession. After that, however, disaster struck when the refs called a foul on Brink — a decision the crowd and Brink outwardly disagreed with — ending her game prematurely. After this, the Gamecocks used their momentum to take control of the game, sealing their lead with a 3-pointer from guard Bree Hall. Afterward, the Cardinal were playing catchup, but they could not seem to make the deficit close.
“[South Carolina is] very resilient,” Boston said. “Will not go down without a fight.”
In one final attempt — after a five-second violation was called on Jones trying to inbound — Iriafen stole the ball and called a timeout even though the Cardinal had already used their final timeout, thus committing a technical foul — which gave the Gamecocks two free throws and the ball back with three seconds left in the period. Ultimately, this would prove to be Stanford’s downfall, as the game ended 76-71.
“It does not come down to one mistake,” VanDerveer said. “It is the combination of the turnovers, not getting the ball in bounds, taking a timeout, not boxing out, fouling out, all these things add up.”
Leading the way for the Cardinal was Brink, with 25 points. Following her, Iriafen and Jones each scored 11. Defensively, Jones led the team with nine rebounds while Prechtel led with five blocks. However, the most crucial statistic of the game was that Stanford committed 22 turnovers during the game.
“Our turnovers really hurt us,” VanDerveer said. “That is something we will have to do better.”
Up next, the Cardinal look to go to Honolulu to compete in the Rainbow Wahine Showdown, first taking on FGCU (4-0, 0-0 ASUN). Tipoff is slated for Friday, Nov. 25 at 2 p.m. PT.