After suffering two consecutive losses against the Arizona schools, No. 19 Stanford women’s basketball (17-7, 9-3 Pac-12) looks to get back in the win column when it faces USC and UCLA this weekend.
Stanford led by double digits both times — 12 against ASU and 14 against Arizona — early in the second half but allowed those teams to come back and win by one and three points, respectively.
Both losses hurt the squad in different ways: A win against ASU would have meant not only beating the then-No. 10 ranked team but also would have advanced the Card in the Pac-12 standings, as at that point, ASU was second in the conference with only one loss. The Sun Devils’ recent defeat of Stanford also marked the first time the Cardinal had been swept by a conference opponent since 1987-88.
The Card also know that they could have beaten, if not crushed, the Wildcats as they did earlier this season when the team won by 30 points, 77-47. In Sunday’s contest, victory was within Stanford’s reach when the team was up 57-50 with 1:18 left in the game before letting Arizona end the game on a 10-0 run.
Despite these losses, the Card have been looking to learn from these experiences and move on as they prepare to face two more tough teams, USC and UCLA.
“This week we’ve been working really hard to do all the little things and really talk on the court and just play hard every possession,” said senior forward Bonnie Samuelson. “We did a good job of talking over exactly what we did wrong in the games [against ASU and Arizona] and we’re really trying hard to fix it.”
The fact that Stanford swept the Los Angeles schools three weeks ago does not necessarily indicate how these next two games will pan out. The games against ASU and Arizona demonstrate how the Card have to play full 40-minute games on both ends of the court if they wants to come out with conference wins against such talented and aggressive Pac-12 teams.
Stanford’s inability to play complete games has been present throughout much of this season: The team often gets off to slow starts and has been down at halftime 10 times this season. Such inconsistent play within games is an issue the coaching staff has been working to address in preparation for the remainder of the season.
“One of the trademarks of Stanford women’s basketball, the reason we have been so successful is that our team plays really hard,” said head coach Tara VanDerveer. “That’s something we’ve really been emphasizing this week is great effort.
“Another thing is better communication. We had a lot of communication breakdowns that shouldn’t be happening in February,” VanDerveer said, “so we’ve addressed that, and I think our team is working very hard to talk better on the floor and make sure everybody is on the same page.”
In the team’s first matchup against UCLA, the Card faced a three-point deficit at halftime, partly because they allowed Nirra Fields to score 17 first-half points. Although her productivity was reduced to five points in the second half, Stanford will have to ensure that it properly matches up against Fields in addition to playing disciplined defense in both halves and preventing the Bruins from going on runs.
After a slow start against the Bruins in January’s contest, the Card came out sharper in the first half of the USC game, yet after leading the Trojans by nine at halftime, Stanford only outscored USC by two in the second half, 35-33. In addition to playing solid defense and aggressive offense, the Card must watch several of USC’s scorers, particularly Jordan Adams, who had 21 in the teams’ last matchup, from making too much of an impact.
“When we played them in LA they were good games,” Samuelson said. “They’re very good teams, they’re very athletic. We know we have to take care of the ball against their pressure and just really execute and stop them on offense.”
Unless senior point guard Amber Orrange and sophomore guard Lili Thompson put up 20-plus point games, Stanford’s other starters must get more involved than they were over this past weekend. In both games combined, Samuelson notched only 11 while sophomore guard Briana Roberson and freshman forward Kaylee Johnson each had 10. Samuelson and Roberson were particularly productive against UCLA in January, scoring 21 points, while Orrange and Thompson also made significant contributions that weekend. Getting guard Karlie Samuelson and forward Erica McCall, both sophomores, involved would also be beneficial – the younger Samuelson for getting the Card’s 3-point game rolling and McCall for rebounding and scoring in the paint.
“We have to all learn from [the losses this past weekend] and we have to be ready to play this weekend,” VanDerveer said. “[We] can’t change that [the team lost] so we’re hoping that good things will come out of those losses that we’ll learn from them and play better.”
Stanford will play two of its three remaining home games at Maples Pavilion against the Trojans on Friday, Feb. 13, at 6 p.m. before taking on the Bruins on Sunday, Feb. 15, at 4:30 p.m.
Contact Alexa Philippou at aphil723 ‘at’ stanford.edu