No. 15 Stanford women’s basketball (1-0, 0-0 Pac-12) kicked its season off with a 87-40 victory against Hawai’i (0-1, 0-0 Big West) on Wednesday evening.
While it was only the first game of the season, the night featured some outstanding career highs from returning players, as well as incredible collegiate career starts for three new freshmen.
The Cardinal had a strong start, shooting 50% from inside the arc in the first quarter. Junior forward Kiki Iriafen started the team off with the first layup of the game and continued dominating throughout the quarter. She scored eight of Stanford’s first 12 points in the first five minutes, totaling 17 points in the first half. Alongside Iriafen, junior guard Elena Bosgana, fifth-year guard Hannah Jump, senior forward Cameron Brink and sophomore guard Talana Lepolo pushed the team to an early lead. Four free throws by Brink and freshman forward Nunu Agara each maintained Stanford’s 100% free throw percentage in the quarter and furthered Stanford’s 24-12 lead.
Stanford held Hawaii to a 15.38 field goal percentage in quarter two, playing strong defense. Despite Hawai’i’s attempts to catch up, Stanford’s aggressive rebounding and blocks kept the Rainbow Warriors to a mere 10 points in the quarter.
The second quarter also exhibited strong offense from the Cardinal, with jumpers from Jump, junior forward Brooke Demetre and Iriafen, who also drained three free throws. A three-pointer by freshman forward Courtney Ogden and points from Agara pushed Stanford’s lead, and Brink’s multiple assists and strong defense played a vital role in ensuring the 46-22 success for the first half.
“As a team we’re doing amazing,” Iriafen said. “We’re gelling together really well. It’s super early in the season and we’re doing incredible things, and I think it’s just going to continue to go up from there.”
The Cardinal returned from halftime hungry for more. Despite the Rainbow Warriors increasing their attempts to score, the Cardinal shut their chances down. Blocks by freshman guard Chloe Clardy and redshirt sophomore guard Jzaniya Harriel, as well as rebounds from the entire team kept the score low for Hawaii. Quarter three concluded with a 66-30 lead for the Cardinal.
Stanford continued commanding the court in the fourth quarter, outscoring Hawai’i by 11. Agara dominated Stanford’s offense, making three jumpers, a layup and two free throws in the first five minutes of the quarter. Stanford’s control of the ball through Clardy and Harriel, points from Ogden and Demetre and boards and blocks from sophomore guard Stavi Papadaki cleared the path to a destructive 87-40 win for Stanford.
The triumph marks a great start to the 2023-24 season for Stanford. All three freshmen proved to their teammates and the fans their abilities to lead.
“I don’t even think of them as freshmen,” said head coach Tara VanDerveer. “They really know what they’re doing, and I give credit to our upperclassmen that recognize the fact that we need our freshmen to play and not be ‘freshmen.’”
Agara scored 18 points and had 6 rebounds in her career debut, the most points scored by a Stanford freshman in a season opener since 2004.
“I was committed here since my junior year so I’ve been waiting for this forever,” Agara said. “Just to be out there with my teammates, it’s amazing. The energy that they have — I’ve never experienced anything like that, so just coming out there and being with my sisters, my older sisters, is great.”
Agara scored eight of Stanford’s 20 free throws, a game high. The Cardinal’s 19-of-20 foul shots marks their best performance out of at least 20 attempts since 2015.
Iriafen additionally saw a career high of 23 points and 13 rebounds.
Demetre saw her sixth career game in double-digit scoring, with 12 points and eight rebounds on the night. Bosgana’s first career start resulted in a career-high eight rebounds. In addition to having a game-high five assists in 17 minutes played, Brink scored eight points and had eight rebounds.
“Hawai’i is an excellent team,” VanDeveer said. “They were our tournament team last year, and I think this just really has to be a good message to our team that we’re playing really well and we’re going to continue this … We have 12 great players that are playing for each other.”
Stanford women’s basketball looks to continue their run this Sunday against No. 9 Indiana (1-0, 0-0 Big Ten).