Great pain for the Great Danes: Women’s basketball wins big against Albany

Nov. 28, 2023, 1:47 a.m.

No. 3 Stanford women’s basketball (7-0, 0-0 Pac-12) continued their unbeaten start to the season with a dominant 79-35 win over UAlbany (4-2, 0-0 America East) on Sunday. Senior forward Cameron Brink was brilliant on both sides of the ball, while fellow forwards — freshman Nunu Agara and junior Kiki Iriafen — raised havoc too, allowing Stanford’s guards to excel from the 3-point line.

Stanford’s comfortable night began with a slight hiccup, as sophomore guard Talana Lepolo was unable to collect Brink’s wayward pass, causing a back-court violation. The Cardinal soon settled into their rhythm, though, as junior guard Elena Bosgana, graduate guard Hannah Jump and Lepolo crafted some great passes from the perimeter, while Iriafen and Brink worked the post with assuredness. A strong shape gave Bosgana an open look from three, and Stanford was on the board. The Greek then turned provider as she fed Iriafen with a pass from her own half. 

Brink had four blocks in the game, the first two coming in quick succession as she smothered Albany’s star guard Kayla Cooper in what was quickly becoming a real mismatch. Iriafen, meanwhile, was aggressively crashing the offensive boards to give Stanford second-chance points, as she scored six in the opening minutes. The Great Danes were shell-shocked and called a timeout. 

Stanford amassed an 11-0 lead before Albany could respond. Cooper then managed to get the best of Brink, avoiding her long reach to score a jumper for the Great Danes’ first points. They followed with two more scores to cut the deficit further, but Jump snapped the Cardinal’s brief scoring drought with a beautiful drive and euro-step layup. Brink bested Cooper yet again, as the guard twisted and turned under the basket in vain, before the Stanford star grabbed hold of the ball to force a jump ball. 

The Cardinal ended the first quarter with a flourish, as redshirt sophomore guard Jzaniya Harriel took the ball down court, shot a tough pull-up jumper and hustled to secure her own rebound. Harriel fed freshman guard Courtney Ogden, whose three missed, but Brink soared forward and scored off the rebound in one fell swoop. Stanford led 20-12 after one quarter. 

The second quarter saw Stanford grow its lead, aided by sharp shooting from its veteran Jump. On consecutive plays, she swished a three from two feet beyond the arc, bringing the crowd to its feet and eliciting a roar from the home bench. Jump’s second was her 300th career three-pointer; Jump is only the second female Cardinal to reach such heights, after Kiana Williams ‘21, who finished her career with 311.

Stanford drew more and more fouls to make Albany pay from the line as they went on a 14-2 run in the first half of the second quarter. On one play, Brink fell under the basket as she sought to connect with a Harriel pass, but thankfully, was unharmed despite the hard contact. The Great Danes, meanwhile, kept playing tough, setting lots of smart screens looking for an opening. But the Cardinal gave them little offensively and the shot clock continued to wind down on each possession, leading to rushed shot attempts. 

Stanford’s discipline wavered slightly, as Agara and then Lepolo committed two quick offensive fouls, before an off-ball foul by Bosgana put Albany at the line for the first time. They made one of two but Jump responded emphatically with her third three of the quarter. Stanford were up 47-24 at half-time. 

In the second half, Stanford displayed exceptional defence to limit the Great Danes to single-digit points tallies in each quarter. Strong rebounding by Brink and Iriafen — who led the team with 19 and nine rebounds respectively — allowed Stanford to control possession and tame any threat from the Great Danes. The star forwards’ constant presence in the paint also allowed Lepolo, Jump and Harriel to find good shooting opportunities and to dictate the Cardinal’s ball movement, which became more and more fluid as the afternoon progressed. 

The fourth quarter was low-scoring as the game was all but settled and head coach Tara VanDerveer was able to introduce her last two bench players, sophomore guards Stavi Papadaki and Lauren Green. Stanford’s young team on the floor was led by Harriel, as she sank a smooth three after her patient dribbling saw her slip free from her defender. Papadaki ensured that the final minutes remained exciting as she drove towards the basket and provided a great no-look assist for Ogden who scored an and-one. The Cardinal ended the game with a 44-point advantage, winning 79-35. 

“It’s great to be able to play a lot of people,” VanDerveer said. “We had nine people in double-digit minutes. And double-digit minutes for our three freshmen. No one got hurt, it’s a great win.”

Brink has taken on the role of team leader with confidence following the graduation of superstar Haley Jones ‘23, and she was fantastic yet again yesterday, with 21 points and 19 rebounds. 

“There’s not an answer for Cam [Brink],” VanDerveer said. “She can score one on one against anyone in the country.” 

While Brink’s fellow forwards were similarly strong, it was Jump who also stole the show with 16 points and three assists. The six-foot guard shouldered a lot of responsibility, playing more than 34 minutes as junior forward Brooke Demetre was limited to just three minutes through illness. Despite a slow start to the season for Stanford’s lone graduate student, this display of shooting resembled her very best, while she also surpassed an incredible milestone, a testament to her enduring success from deep. 

“It’s a great accomplishment but it wouldn’t be possible without my teammates and our ball movement,” Jump reflected. “Cam [Brink] and Kiki [Iriafen] are destroying [players] inside so I’m gonna continue shooting and knocking them down.”

Next up, Stanford travels south to play San Diego State (4-2, 0-0 Mountain West) on Friday. Tip-off is scheduled for 11 a.m. PT. 

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