No. 1 Stanford women’s basketball (3-1) dodged a bullet Monday night when New Mexico (0-4) missed two free throws with under a minute left in regulation that could have either tied the game and sent it into overtime or won the game for the Lobos.
In the end, the Card pulled off a narrow 70-65 win, playing at The Pit of UNM, a typically challenging atmosphere to play in.
In the win, senior point guard Amber Orrange scored her 1,000th career point with her 8th of 18 points in the game. She is only the 35th player in Cardinal history to reach that milestone. Additionally, Orrange was named earlier that day to the John R. Wooden Award Pre-season watch list. Freshman forward Kaylee Johnson also had a record setting performance in terms of rebounding. She grabbed 22 rebounds in the win — accounting for almost half of the team’s total boards. She is only the 12th player in Stanford history to have a 20 rebound game. Johnson also recorded a double-double, scoring 10 points and getting 2 blocks.
In the absence of sophomore guard Lili Thompson, who sat out the game due to not feeling well but is expected to begin practicing again this week, sophomore Karlie Samuelson was called upon to start. As the sixth woman off the bench anyways and someone who always brings plenty of energy, she did not disappoint. Samuelson sparked the Cardinal offense in the first half when she went 4-6 from the 3-point line, knocking down the first four consecutively. She ended the game with 23 points.
“Karlie Samuelson had a great game, she really got us going and with Lili out, that just added another double digit scorer for us,” said head coach Tara VanDerveer. “We’re a young team and our bigs are really young and i think they’re working hard out there. We’re just trying to find a way to win every game.”
However, the Cardinal’s offensive spurt was tempered by their defensive performance and poor free throw shooting — 17-29 for 58.6% in the game. The team struggled to stop the dribble penetration and allowed the Lobos to lead by 2 with seconds left in the first half after leading by double digits for the majority of the game. A last second quarter court shot by Orrange however tied up the game heading into the half.
The Card made adjustments on offense and defense to start the second half on a 14-2 run. Missed free throws again came to affect the Card however as it was unable to capitalize at the free throw line on solid drives to the basket.
The Lobos were able to keep themselves in the game by knocking down crucial 3s. In the end, the Card made free throws down the line that the Lobos weren’t able to and pulled away in the final seconds, yet VanDerveer still claimed how amazing it was “to win close games when you shoot so poorly from the free throw line”.
“Playing these close games is challenging for us because we have to sub in a lot and figure out different lineups and I think our team is growing by playing these close games and not panicking,” said VanDerveer. “We have to make free throws, but I thought we rebounded really well. We just have to get different people going.”
The Cardinal will now travel to Hawaii on Wednesday for the Rainbow Wahine Shootout where it will have to play three games in three days — not an easy feat considering that three of its season openers were played down to the wire and required all Stanford starters to play more than 30 minutes.
The Card begin tournament play in Hawaii on Thanksgiving Day against North Carolina in an Elite Eight rematch of last season.
Contact Ashley Westhem at awesthem ‘at’ stanford.edu.