No. 3 Stanford women’s basketball (20-2, 8-1 Pac-12) outlasted Oregon State (11-9, 3-6 Pac-12) 63-60 in a thrilling game at Maples Pavilion on Friday night. An incredibly tight game looked destined for overtime before senior guard Haley Jones kept her composure to knock down three free throws in the final minute, handing Stanford its narrowest win of the season.
One interesting matchup noticed from the outset was the battle of the forwards, as junior Cameron Brink faced a tall task against 6-foot-9 sophomore Jelena Mitrovic, one of the few matchups all year in which Brink held a height disadvantage.
The first quarter set the tone for a competitive night of basketball, with both teams displaying physical defense and signs of explosive offense, albeit with different approaches. Stanford showed off its usual display of fluid passing moves and darting drives to the basket, whereas Oregon State was dangerous from 3-point range, going 8-for-19 over the course of the game.
Defense prevailed in the opening exchanges, particularly from Stanford, as Brink blocked a pass to set up a play scored by freshman guard Talana Lepolo, who was back on the court and in the starting lineup one week after she sustained an ankle injury against Utah. Brink and junior guard Agnes Emma-Nnopu then each blocked shots, before the latter stole under the basket and scored a reverse layup to retain the lead for Stanford.
But the Beavers responded emphatically, with two 3-pointers in quick succession, followed immediately by a steal-and-score. As the quarter wound down, it was Stanford’s turn to respond, as sophomore Brooke Demetre drained a 3-pointer, typifying Stanford’s next-woman-up mentality. Then, Emma-Nnopu was left all alone for the 3-point attempt and scored to flip the score in Stanford’s favor as the quarter ended 22-18.
In the second quarter, Stanford quickly extended its lead with a 3-pointer by senior guard Hannah Jump after the Beavers failed to score from their first possession. The Cardinal double-teamed Mitrovic which allowed freshman guard Indya Nivar to steal the ball, but the possession came to nothing, part of a three minute scoring drought for both teams. The Beavers found their rhythm first with two more 3-pointers, but Jones and Brink each scored to keep the lead at five.
Mitrovic then delivered with a defensive rebound, jump shot and assist to hand the Beavers the lead. In response, Brink drove to the basket and was fouled, converting both free throws to give Stanford a narrow 33-32 lead at halftime.
“No one can stop her,” head coach Tara VanDerveer said of Brink. “Doubled, tripled, and she was still scoring.”
In the beginning of the third quarter, sophomore forward Kiki Iriafen was fouled twice and gave Stanford three of its 15 total points from the free throw line. In comparison, Stanford had played an incredibly clean first half and gave Oregon State no scoring opportunities from the free throw line; they surrendered just two points from the line the entire game.
The Beavers continued to respond with threes of their own, although they also committed four team fouls in as many minutes; the last of which saw Brink halve Stanford’s deficit to two after a blatant violation allowed her to retry an unsuccessful free throw. Brink then tied the game with a layup as she scored six consecutive points.
The Maples crowd — always strong in numbers for the women’s team — was equally strong in voice tonight. With two minutes left in the quarter, the whole stadium erupted into chants of “Defense!” in a showing of support which rivaled that of a playoff game. However, the Beavers seemed unfazed and hit yet another 3-pointer before Brink came agonizingly close with a jumper which fell in and out.
In the last possession of the quarter, Lepolo found Brink at the top of the arc for a wide open 3-point attempt. Brink missed, but Jones pounced on the rebound and found a way to make the shot at the buzzer to tie the game at 49 after 30 minutes of play.
In the fourth quarter, Stanford utilized Emma-Nnopu and senior forward Fran Belibi to add some more defensive steel.
“Agnes’ defense was awesome,” VanDerveer said. “Fran’s was great [too].”
And it seemed to be paying off, for the Beavers did not score in the opening three minutes of the quarter. Stanford, meanwhile, extended its lead to six points after Jones took matters into her own hands, carrying the ball forward and making a jump shot on two consecutive plays.
In a frantic next few minutes, the Beavers knocked down a 3-pointer, before Emma-Nnopu countered from deep. Brink was then outmuscled by the Beavers’ forward, but returned the favor at the other end. This passage exemplified the game’s flow, as each team exchanged blows and rose to the challenges presented by the other.
Oregon State tied the game in the penultimate minute, as senior guard Bendu Yeaney made a terrific play, driving towards the basket and finishing with a jumper as she crashed to the ground. This set up an incredibly tense final minute. First, Emma-Nnopu and then Jones secured offensive rebounds, illustrating the Cardinal’s unwillingness to relinquish possession at such a crucial stage. Jones was fouled and converted both free throws to give Stanford a two-point lead.
The Beavers then had two chances to tie the game but missed both shots, forcing them to start fouling Stanford. Their fifth foul was met with controversy, as a reach was called on a play in which the defender appeared to have cleanly taken the ball from Jones, despite intending to foul her. Nonetheless, Jones made one of the free throws and Oregon State trailed by three. After a timeout, the Beavers missed a 3-point attempt, but collected the rebound and drew a common foul with just 2.5 seconds remaining.
In the final play of the game, great man-to-man marking by Stanford forced a weak inbound pass, which was corralled by Lepolo. She gratefully hugged the ball as time expired, with Stanford edging the contest 63-60.
“Well, we got our money’s worth,” remarked an excited fan as he left Maples Pavilion.
Next up, Stanford will take on Oregon (14-6, 5-4 Pac-12) at Maples Pavilion on Sunday. Tip-off is set for 1 p.m. PT.