After a thrilling victory against UConn on Monday, the mood was reversed in Maples Pavilion on Thursday as the newly minted No. 1 Cardinal (2-1) lost its first game of the season against the No. 10 Texas Longhorns, 87-81.
Sophomore guards Lili Thompson (27 points) and senior point guard Amber Orrange (15 points) were the only Stanford players who ended the game with double-digit points. Freshman forward Kaylee Johnson contributed 13 rebounds but struggled from the free-throw line (5-10) and missed three important free throws at the end of regulation.
“It didn’t look like we had that pep in our step that we needed. Credit to Texas; they came out aggressive and had more energy than we did,” said head coach Tara VanDerveer. “They didn’t back down and did a great job of going inside.”
Stanford trailed 43-37 at halftime after having difficulty penetrating the middle for most of the half. Texas’ defense forced Stanford to take lower-percentage shots and led to seven Cardinal turnovers.
“We relied a little too much on our perimeter shooting. We didn’t have our legs and we didn’t get out on transition because we didn’t play defensively as well as we needed to play,” VanDerveer said. “And for not playing very well we still made it an overtime game.”
Stanford’s first-half points came mostly from Thompson (16 points) and sophomore guard Briana Roberson, who went 8-8 from the free throw line after she repeatedly weaved through the Texas defense and drew fouls.
“We take away [from this loss] that we definitely have things to work on and we’re still a young team and it’s early in the season,” Thompson said. “If we had won this game then we wouldn’t have focused as much on what we need to improve on so looking at it from that standpoint we’ll watch film and make adjustments.”
The Cardinal had trouble defending Empress Davenport’s pull-up jump shot. The Card were too often beat off the drive and did not rotate quickly enough on help defense, allowing the Longhorns to shoot 53 percent from the field in the first half under strong shooting by Davenport, Kelsey Lang, and Ariel Atkins.
The referees made it difficult for either team to play aggressive defense, for they called 24 total fouls in the first half alone and 51 in total in the game.
“They called really tight hand checking. I dont think it was a poorly called game but I don’t think anyone wants to pay to see a free throw contest,” said VanDerveer. “Having said that we didn’t win the free throw contest…It was an aggressive physical game.”
The second half and overtime proved to be a continuation of the Cardinal’s struggles.
While Thompson made some important shots to keep the team within striking distance, the Cardinal shot only 37.5 percent in the second half and 14.3 percent in overtime, where they got off only one shot. Lang, Atkins, and Nneka Enemkpali from the Longhorns took advantage of the Cardinal’s inability to defend the dribble penetration and combined for 29 points. Stanford was able to keep up offensively as Orrange and Johnson scored 6 apiece in the second half.
After not leading since the beginning of the first half, the Cardinal saw a glimmer of hope when senior guard Bonnie Samuelson hit a long three with 1:43 left to put Stanford up by 1 point, 74-73. After sophomore forward Kaylee Johnson went 1-2 from the free throw line and put the team up by 2 points with 12 seconds left, Davenport hit an open layup with one second left to tie the game and force it into overtime.
In overtime the Cardinal again struggled to stop the penetration down the middle and gave Texas open lanes to the basket. While offensively the Cardinal had a resurgence from the free-throw line and had better shot selections, the Card weren’t able to capitalize off several steals and key defensive rebounds to put up enough points to pull away.
Texas outscored Stanford in the paint 34-24 on the day and outrebounded them 44-37. The Cardinal struggled most with offensive rebounds, while Texas earned 34 defensive rebounds.
“Losing is a blessing. It’s early in the season and…we don’t like losing but this can be a really good learning game for us,” Orrange said.
“Going Monday against Connecticut and then Thursday against Texas after playing on Friday is tough but we’re going to turn around and play three games in three days in Hawaii and that’s what the Pac-12 Tournament is like,” VanDerveer concluded.
The Cardinal will travel to New Mexico for its first road trip to meet the Lobos in Albuquerque at 6 p.m. local time.
Contact Alexa Philippou at aphil723 ‘at’ stanford.edu.