Friday night in Eugene, the No. 11 Stanford women’s basketball team needed two clutch baskets from junior guard Lili Thompson in the last 35 seconds in order to grasp a 64-62 victory against unranked Oregon. With the win, the Cardinal improved to 14-3 and 4-1 in the Pac-12, while Oregon dropped to 11-5 and 0-5 in conference.
The Cardinal’s road struggles ensued as they narrowly defeated the Ducks in their first game of a four game road trip. Beyond her game-winning layup with 2.4 seconds left on the clock, Thompson accumulated 16 points, including 9 points in the fourth quarter as well as the game-tying and game-winning basket in the last 35 seconds.
“I just wanted to put my head down and rely on my teammates, and then they set some great screens on those last few plays, and I just tried to finish,” Thompson said about her performance.
Overall, the Cardinal let another road game control how they played. The Oregon team, which fell to winless in five consecutive conference games, had controlled the game and even extended its lead to five points with five minutes remaining.
Yet the Cardinal began to turn the game around immediately after the Ducks’ five point lead. The Cardinal solidified their defense when it counted, only allowing one point in the last five minutes of the ball game. On the offensive end, Stanford relied on four consecutive layups to regain its first lead since the early minutes of the first quarter.
Despite the win, Stanford continued its poor away form. The Cardinal only led for 1:55, and the Oregon team showed real strength despite its record. The Cardinal allowed the Oregon team to score 36 points on 57.1 percent from beyond the arc, which was immensely better than even the Cardinal’s field goal percentage of 44.8 percent.
Contributing most to the Cardinal’s offense and keeping the team in the game were Thompson; junior guard Karlie Samuelson, who ended the game with 18 points after going 4-of-5 from beyond the arc; and sophomore Kaylee Johnson, who had 16 points.
Contact Lorenzo Rosas at enzor9 ‘at’ stanford.edu.
The Cardinal’s road struggles would continue, albeit in a different form, during their second conference game of the weekend, against No. 12 Oregon State. Despite leading by as many as 15 and owning a 10-point lead going into the final quarter, Stanford (14-4, 4-2) would ultimately let the game slip away, dropping a 58-50 decision to the Beavers (14-3, 5-1).
Junior forward Kailee Johnson became the ninth different Cardinal to lead the team in scoring this season, recording 14 points and making all eight of her free throws. Johnson was one of the stronger players on both ends for the Cardinal, playing solid post defense on Beavers center Ruth Hamblin. The third leading scorer on the season for Oregon State, Hamblin was held to just 4 points on the night.
Much like the Cardinal’s first conference loss against Arizona State, poor shooting was a key factor on Sunday. The Cardinal made just 18 of their 57 shots against the Pac-12’s top-ranked defense, including 9-of-27 from their top two offensive players, junior guard Lili Thompson and junior forward Erica McCall.
Nevertheless, it seemed for most of the game that the Cardinal would earn a tough road win in Corvallis. The Cardinal played airtight defense, holding the Beavers to single-digit points in both the second and third quarters. The Cardinal’s stout defense, coupled with a 17-6 run to close the first half and an efficient scoring night from Johnson, gave them a 40-30 lead with 10 minutes to play.
The Beavers started to take control of the game with seven minutes remaining in the final quarter. Led by commanding offensive performances from Deven Hunter and Jamie Weisner, the Beavers scored 17 points in a row, completely erasing an 11-point Cardinal lead. Weisner’s three-pointer with 57 seconds left sealed the win for the Beavers, who beat the Cardinal for just the seventh time in the program’s history.
Stanford last lost to Oregon State in 2001, another reminder of both the Pac-12’s overall quality this season and the Cardinal’s slight regression after decades of conference supremacy. As conference play enters full swing, the Cardinal have established themselves as a defensive juggernaut whose overwhelming ability on that side of the ball can keep them in most games.
However, Stanford’s offensive struggles, especially in conference play, have persisted long enough to be a legitimate concern rather than a minor slump. The Pac-12 features some of the nation’s best defensive teams, which have resulted in many slower-paced games this season. The slow pace of these games means that successful teams need multiple players who can create shots in the half court. Thompson and McCall have shown glimpses of that ability this season, but the Cardinal’s offense completely stagnates when the juniors are struggling. Players like Johnson and sophomore guard Brittany McPhee have occasionally been able to pick up the slack in those instances, but the Cardinal have failed to develop reliable creators to help Thompson and McCall work through the Pac-12’s elite defenses.
The Cardinal’s road swing continues on Friday, as they face USC in the Galen Center.
Contact Sanjay Srinivas at sanjay_srinivas ‘at’ stanford.edu.