Widgets Magazine
Women’s basketball’s sights set on 12th conference title
Senior Karlie Samuelson is finishing up her Stanford career as one of the team's greatest assets. Samuelson's fortes include shots beyond the arc, in which she led the conference this season. (RAHIM ULLAH/The Stanford Daily)

Women’s basketball’s sights set on 12th conference title

Following a bye in the first round of weekend action, No. 10 Stanford women’s basketball (25-5, 15-3) aims for their 12th conference title in this year’s Pac-12 tournament against Washington State (11-18, 6-12).  The Beavers won in a highly competitive and nail biting match against the Colorado Buffs (15-14, 5-13) to move on and face the Cardinal in the quarterfinals.

While the Cougars ultimately toppled Colorado 79-78, the Buffs staged a heroic comeback and almost completed their historic save but for a costly free throw and layup/tip-in miss to finish the night’s action. The Cougars were able to stave off the upset with the help of a few Buffs fouling out during the game’s last possessions.

Washington State now moves on to face the fully rested, second-seeded Stanford squad that dominated the Cougars in their lone contest this season. In that January match in Pullman, the Cardinal successfully marched to a 22-point victory behind a total team effort, led behind senior guard/wing Karlie Samuelson and her 16 points.

In order to grab victory, the Cardinal would do well to emulate the suffocating defensive pressure shown from Colorado against Washington State in their tournament clash. When Cougar ball handlers were pressured, Washington State was forced into high traps that turned into turnovers and fast breaks late in the fourth.

In Thursday night’s matchup, the Cougars were led by their trio of starting guards: sophomore Alexys Swedlund, junior Caila Hailey and junior Pinelopi Pavalopoulou who scored 23, 17 and 10 points respectively on the night, with nine threes from 16 attempts. 

Despite the Cougars’ slim victory and game mismanagement, head coach Tara VanDerveer knows the danger of overlooking opponents in such a highly competitive conference. Commenting to reporters after the Cardinal’s tough loss in Corvallis, she said “We’ve got four real great teams in the Pac-12 and we’ve got 12 teams that anybody can win on any night.”

Stanford travels north playing great team basketball and looking to build on the momentum and lessons learned in the final stretch of the regular season. After losing a gut-wrenching three-point defeat to the No. 6 Beavers (27-3, 16-2), the Cardinal showed their basketball IQ and adaptability, renewing focus on grabbing rebounds to take the victory in their last match of the regular season against the Ducks (18-12, 8-10).

The Cardinal’s roster depth and lineup versatility has played a huge role in Stanford’s success down the stretch of the season. In the last seven games, sophomore forward Alanna Smith has averaged 14.9 points and 7.1 rebounds a game — one of three non-starters nationally to average over 13 points per game in February — while highlighting a young yet talented Stanford bench.

Smith commented post game in the midst of a great final stretch, “Every game it’s someone different. We don’t rely on just one person to score for us. So, I think when someone is doing really well, regardless of the player, we try and get them the ball.”

Although Stanford needs contributions from normal bench role players, the Cardinal will rely even further on their senior leaders, such as forward Erica McCall and Samuelson, to look to lead this team back atop the conference tournament for the first time since winning as a second-seed in 2015. Samuelson’s shooting — the wing led the conference by hitting 49.3 percent from beyond the arc against Pac-12 opponents — will be vital in order to gain space in suffocating postseason defense.

Ultimately, however, Stanford enjoys the option of “different players different nights,” as VanDerveer described her roster earlier this season, and the threat of the Cardinal is the multitude of different game-changers in her depths. Keeping this in mind, the Cardinal still remain confident of their abilities heading into yet another conference tournament in which VanDerveer and the program have won 11 out of 15 titles in its history. 

This game and the entirety of the Cardinal’s action in the Pac-12 tournament will be televised on the Pac-12 Network. The game will commence on Friday at 6 p.m. 

 

Contact Lorenzo Rosas at enzor9 ‘at’ stanford.edu.