In a double overtime thriller, No. 3 Stanford (27-3, 15-2 Pac-12) recovered from a poor first quarter to overcome No. 21 Colorado (21-7, 12-5) 73-62. Stanford’s thrilling performance in the second period of overtime secured at least a share of the Pac-12 title after the spirited Buffaloes fell just short of a memorable win.
There was no score after the first two minutes of the game as both sides probed for an opening. The Buffs landed the first few punches offensively and were displaying strong defense as freshman center Lauren Betts and sophomore forward Kiki Iriafen had consecutive efforts blocked. On the next play, Iriafen was forced to backtrack and feed senior guard Haley Jones, whose jumper air-balled as part of an abysmal 0-13 start on field goal attempts for the Cardinal.
Meanwhile, Colorado had amassed a 6-0 lead. Betts, freshman guard Indya Nivar and senior forward Fran Belibi all checked in as head coach Tara VanDerveer tried to gain control in the contest using a bigger lineup. Junior forward Cameron Brink collected her first foul and Colorado extended its lead to 8 points. Then, an incredible passage followed in which Stanford had three consecutive offensive rebounds and shot attempts from under the basket which each came agonizingly close to dropping. Ultimately, though, the Buffs came away with the ball and scored on a fast break. Stanford’s early misery reached its zenith when a poor defensive effort allowed a Buffs shooter to rebound her own shot, before recycling it out to a wide-open teammate, who sank the triple.
Haley Jones committed the Cardinal’s fifth turnover of the quarter when she fell to her knees and lost the ball trying to pass out of trouble. The only source of positivity as the first quarter wound down was that Stanford drew two Colorado players into committing two personal fouls each already. After eight minutes of play, Jones was fouled and scored both free throws to get Stanford on the board. Soon after, sophomore forward Brooke Demetre sank a corner three. Stanford had shot just 6% on field goals thus far and trailed 13-5 after the first quarter.
The second quarter started similarly to the first as neither side immediately found their scoring groove. A series of mistakes – a pair of Colorado turnovers and an illegal screen by Iriafen – characterized the opening possessions for both teams. Sophomore guard Elena Bosgana checked in and was the 11th player used for Stanford already, emphasizing the problems VanDerveer’s side had figuring out Colorado. After another 3-pointer by Colorado, senior guard Hannah Jump returned the favor for the Cardinal followed by a trademark drive, check and spin by Jones gave Stanford a 5-0 run.
Although the Buffs responded after great hustle by senior Jaylyn Sherrod, Jump and Bosgana each sank a three to bring Stanford within 6 points of the home side. In the last possession of the half, Belibi – whose impact off the bench was instrumental to steadying the ship for Stanford – emphatically rejected a shot. The half ended 24-18 in Colorado’s favor.
“We want to play fast all the time,” said Colorado head coach JR Payne in reference to her side’s strong start. “I think we’re getting pretty good looks but when we stall, it doesn’t work for us.”
Entering the second half, Stanford could take optimism from their second-quarter performance and recognize that, with six of the last 10 games between these two sides being decided by single digits, there was a long way to go.
“We need to keep battling in there, adjust to the game and move the ball,” VanDerveer said at half-time.
In the third quarter, Stanford began to show flashes of its brilliance as Brink – limited in first-half minutes after committing two fouls – began to impose her physicality on the Buffs with an exceptional block, reminding spectators why she was named 2022 Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year. With Brink on the floor and Belibi continuing her dominant defensive display off the bench, Stanford clawed its way back. Jones scored a jumper and was fouled after the shot, to give Stanford an inbound, from which Jump scored a three to give Stanford its first lead of the day. It took six minutes for the Buffs to score in the third quarter, while Stanford was finally getting success from shots under and around the basket, as Belibi and Betts – subbed in again after Brink’s third foul – each converted. However, a turnover by Demetre proved costly as Colorado retook the lead on the ensuing fast break.
Brink returned to the floor and scored her first points of the game with two minutes left in the third. At this point, VanDerveer was utilizing Brink and Betts together to great effect, as the latter received the ball unguarded and finished after a weaving drive by Jones committed three Buffs defenders. After another strong block by Belibi, Stanford had control of the ball for the last play of the quarter; Jump’s triple attempt was long but collected by Betts who scored and was fouled as the buzzer sounded. The visiting bench erupted as Betts made the free throw to give Stanford a 38-32 lead entering the fourth quarter.
Colorado needed a spark to begin the fourth quarter, but Betts – one of Stanford’s most effective weapons and a key to the team’s turnaround – stuffed a 3-point attempt and retained the ball. Brink scored to extend Stanford’s run to 9-0 as the Cardinal looked to pull away. A scrappy period ensued as both teams gave up possession and Stanford committed three quick fouls. With Colorado in the bonus, they tied the game from the line. With under two minutes to play, Betts was fouled and converted both – Stanford was grinding out points despite not scoring a field goal in three and a half minutes. But turnovers continued to plague them and a travel call against Jones was the Cardinal’s 15th of the game.
In the final minute, freshman guard Talana Lepolo got caught as Colorado sophomore Kindyll Wetta got the Buffs’ 10th steal, resulting in the ball bouncing out of play off of Lepolo’s knee. Colorado set a smart play, pulling away Brink and Betts to leave the exceptional Sherrod one-on-one with Lepolo. Sherrod scored to tie the game with 23 seconds left. Jones had a chance to win it but was double-teamed and shot wide. At the end of regulation, the game was tied 48-48.
In overtime, Betts and Nivar entered the game, with the latter carrying the ball. The electric Sherrod stole the ball from Brink but Stanford was let off as she was adjudged to have stepped out of bounds. More lockdown defense by the Buffs saw Jones commit a shot clock violation before they retook the lead.
Jones calmly dribbled in, spun and scored to deliver Stanford’s first field goal in six minutes. However, Brink then received her fifth personal foul after Sherrod drove along the baseline, confining her to the bench for the rest of the game after fouling out. She managed 8 points, ending her streak of reaching double figures in points at 21 straight games.
Colorado missed both free throws, retained the ball and missed another shot attempt before Jones fed Jump with an incredible backdoor bounce pass. However, without Brink, Colorado center Quay Miller was able to command the paint and score. In response, Betts muscled her way to the basket and scored.
Stanford looked to have wasted a huge chance when Jones went to the line and missed both free throws before Belibi was fouled and missed both as well. However, the Buffs continued to foul Stanford and at the second time of asking, Jones scored both to tie the game. However, Colorado’s focal point Sherrod responded once more as she waited for the screen to be set, crept forward, then displayed an explosive change of pace to finish the layup. Jones and Sherrod then each scored to exchange 1-point leads for their teams.
With the clock below 10 seconds, senior forward Ashten Prechtel was forced to foul Sherrod, who missed both free throws to give Stanford the chance to win the game after the timeout. In a gutsy play call, Jones lobbed a rainbow pass to Betts, who was fouled under the basket. She made one of her two free throws and the game entered a second overtime period, tied 60-60.
In the second period of overtime, Stanford — without Brink and with Jones and Jump playing an exhausting 50 and 41 minutes respectively — finally pulled away from Colorado. Belibi had her eighth rebound off the bench and Jones scored a free throw and a jumper to give Stanford a 5-point lead. Colorado’s full-court pressure was alleviated by Betts, who calmly received the ball and used her height to fend off the pressure. Then, already facing a 5-point deficit, Colorado made a fatal mistake as the ball bounced off of freshman Jada Wynn and out of play. Colorado was forced to foul as Stanford took control in the final seconds. The game ended 73-62 with Stanford on top.
It was an incredible result for Stanford considering the abysmal start to the game and the wasteful free throw shooting in overtime. Incredibly, Stanford made more field goals in the second overtime period (seven) than it managed in the entire first half (six).
“Feels great. A ‘W’ is a ‘W’ in my opinion, even though we have lots of things to work on,” Jones said. “We learned a lot, but it also proves that we’re very gritty and a tough team.”
Next up, Stanford travels to No. 8 Utah (23-3, 18-3 Pac-12) in its final game of the regular season. Tip-off is scheduled for 11 a.m. PT on Saturday.