The last time that No. 12 Stanford women’s basketball (17-5, 9-1 Pac-12) played No. 10 Arizona State (20-2, 9-1), the Card were ranked two spots higher than the Sun Devils. This time around, in the second half of Pac-12 play, it’s ASU that has the advantage and Stanford that will look to win from behind just as ASU successfully did nearly three weeks ago.
“Every time that we have a chance to play these teams again, it’s good because we can see how they played the first time and then make some changes so that we can figure out a better way to do things than we did the first time,” said senior guard/forward Bonnie Samuelson. “This time we’re just coming in fired up and we know not to take this team lightly because they beat us the first time.”
Stanford lost to ASU by just three points in the teams’ last meeting — the first time since 1984 that the Card dropped a game to the Sun Devils at Maples and the first time in 16 games that the Card didn’t come out on top.
The narrow margin of victory, however, was not indicative of the closeness of the rest of the game. Stanford never led at any point in the matchup and trailed at halftime by 17 points. It wasn’t until sophomore guard Briana Roberson knocked down a 3-pointer with 23.2 seconds remaining that the Card came within four points.
Both teams struggled with shooting consistency: The Card shot only 29 percent in the first half compared to ASU’s 51 percent — ASU didn’t miss a shot until the 14:11 mark of the first half. In the second half, however, the teams flip-flopped with Stanford shooting 56 percent and ASU shooting a mere 26 percent — allowing the Card to make a comeback.
“As a team, we know that that was not our best showing and we’re way stronger than that,” said freshman forward Kaylee Johnson. “We’re not the kind of team to get beat on the boards so dramatically. I know it’s going to be a challenge but everyone is really excited to go in there and show that we’re fighters and that we’re here to battle.”
What really affected the flow of the game and kept the momentum tilted in ASU’s favor was rebounding. The Card were outrebounded 44-22 in the game, only managing to grab five offensive rebounds, allowing the Sun Devils to score 18 second-chance points to the Cardinal’s two.
Johnson has been a rebounding force for the Cardinal thus far this season, leading the team in rebounding with 10.5 rebounds per game, which is good for second in the Pac-12. The freshman realizes the importance of winning the rebounding battle and compensating for the Card’s lack of size in the paint by boxing out and crashing the boards.
“Instinctively, I’m ready to just go and crash [the boards], but there are teams where I know that the girls have a few pounds on me so I need to turn around and box out and really get that discipline part down before I go rebound,” Johnson said. “I’m just thinking, ‘I have to get this ball and I have to kick it out to get it to a teammate to keep the game going.’”
While Samuelson has been a huge asset on offense — she has contributed 12.4 points per game since she was inserted into the starting lineup and notched her 200th career 3-pointer on Monday — she has also transitioned into the forward position this year and has aided the Card defensively underneath the basket.
“I really like playing the four [position]. It’s a great challenge for me on defense to have to guard these people and to have to work on my defense,” Samuelson said. “Then on offense, to get the opportunity to switch and have a post guarding me and being on the perimeter.”
The Cardinal have struggled with finding momentum in the first half and often do not pull ahead of teams until they make halftime adjustments. Before the Card overplayed the Sun Devils in the second half, Arizona State went on a 19-6 run over the final 10 minutes of the first half to create its 39-22 halftime lead.
“We’ve been trying to have more of a sense of urgency at the beginning of the game and to know that every team that we’re about to play is extremely good and that we need to be ready at the start of games so that we don’t dig ourselves into a hole,” Samuelson said.
The Cardinal will play to avenge their only conference loss of the season Friday on the road at 7 p.m. against Arizona State. The Card will then take on the Arizona Wildcats Sunday at 2 p.m.