No. 6 Stanford (23-3, 11-2 Pac-12) comfortably defeated No. 17 Arizona (18-6, 9-3 Pac-12) 84-60 after a dominant second-half display on the road. The Cardinal used its height advantage to stifle the Wildcats on both sides of the ball, with physically imposing performances by junior forward Cameron Brink and freshman center Lauren Betts.
Sophomore forward Kiki Iriafen started the game as head coach Tara VanDerveer signaled from the outset her intent to play big and generate an instant response after Sunday’s gut-wrenching late loss to unranked Washington (13-9, 5-7 Pac-12). And Iriafen’s selection paid dividends early as she secured a pair of rebounds – one at each end of the court. Freshman guard Talana Lepolo opened the scoring with a shot from mid-range before senior guard Haley Jones blocked an effort at the other end – the first of a night which saw five different Cardinal reject a shot.
An intercepted pass and fast break by Arizona put them on the board for the first time. But Stanford responded with a big play when Lepolo found senior guard Hannah Jump for a corner three. Jump – a career 42% shooter from deep – was in a mini-slump before this game, shooting just 26% in her last three games, but she put any worries of a continued cold streak to rest by splashing her first triple attempt of the game.
In the early exchanges, Stanford limited Arizona to shots from deep, one of which they converted. Brink, meanwhile, was heating up, muscling her way to the basket to secure her first field goal of the night. However, Arizona was equal to the Cardinal for much of the first quarter. A standout play occurred after Wildcat guard Shaina Pellington received the ball at half-court from a Cardinal turnover. She drove to the basket and stopped abruptly, deceiving freshman guard Indya Nivar who tumbled over her in vain, before Pellington finished to draw Arizona within two points.
Betts made the most of her first-quarter minutes and showed solid post-play, signaling for the ball early and often, as well as contributing with great offensive output. Stanford went on a 9-0 run to close out the quarter with a 21-11 lead.
Arizona tried to assert itself more in the second quarter as Pellington scored a jumper and Brink turned the ball over. However, Nivar restored Stanford’s 10-point cushion with a steal-and-score. Brink’s jumper moments later capped a run of six consecutive made shots for the Cardinal. Next, Stanford benefitted from some fortune as Brink’s pass – which was heading straight out of play – was mishandled by a Wildcats player to give Stanford possession, from which Brink was fouled and scored both free throws.
After a triple by Arizona, Jones threaded the needle with a beautiful bounce pass to a cutting Nivar, who finished expertly with a reverse layup. Stanford amassed a lead as large as 14, but their performance was not without flaw, as they surrendered eight first-half turnovers, with the last giving the Wildcats a three-point opportunity which they converted. The first half ended 38-27 in Stanford’s favor.
“We have to take care of the basketball [better],” VanDerveer said in an interview with ESPN at halftime.
In the third quarter, Stanford maintained its offensive output, as Jump scored an early triple and Brink continued to deliver – making six shots out of seven after missing her first three attempts of the day. Defensively, Stanford ramped up the pressure too, as Brink and then Iriafen each blocked a shot, two of Stanford’s nine second-half blocks.
Brink’s block in particular was historic; it was her 92nd of the season, the most in a campaign in Stanford women’s basketball history, besting her own record of 91 set last year.
However, Brink’s brilliance was halted when she picked up her third foul and hit the bench. Soon after, Stanford extended its lead to 21 points after a passing spree, in which four Cardinal players touched the ball to set up an excellent look for Jump to convert another three. Betts stepped up admirably when Brink hit the bench and accumulated 10 points by the end of the third quarter, more than double her average of 4.9 points per game.
Stanford brought in more bench players after amassing a 25-point lead and naturally suffered a few more turnovers as a result of the rotation. However, Arizona was limited to 4-20 on field goals in the third quarter, while Stanford made eight shots out of 10 attempts in the final minutes of the third. This disparity left the home crowd deflated as Stanford led 62-37 heading into the fourth quarter.
Arizona had a quick start in the final period and went on a 6-2 run, but Jones restored some of Stanford’s authority with a right-sided bank shot after a nice find by sophomore forward Brooke Demetre. The Wildcats shot much better than in the third quarter but found it difficult to close the gap. Nivar restored Stanford’s 25-point lead after her third steal of the game resulted in an uncontested layup.
Stanford sat Jones in the final three minutes of the contest, but the production was not stymied, as Iriafen stepped up with a basket and offensive rebound. It was also encouraging to see some of the younger players get minutes. In particular, freshman guards Stavi Papadaki and Lauren Green saw action in the final minutes, while sophomore guard Elena Bosgana was tasked with carrying the ball for the first time this year. Overall, it was a marked improvement from Sunday’s loss against Washington.
“I think this was one of our best games we played overall, 40 minutes-wise. I was really proud of the bounce back that we had tonight [after the loss],” Jones said. “Everything was 10 times better.”
Next up, Stanford heads to Tempe, Ariz. to face Arizona State (7-14, 0-12 Pac-12), with tip-off slated for Sunday at 11 a.m. PT.