No. 12 Stanford women’s basketball (15-5, 5-3 Pac-12) split its weekend road swing in Los Angeles, beating USC (15-5. 3-5) 57-47 on Friday night before losing to No. 20 UCLA (14-5, 6-2) 56-36 on Sunday.
On their trip to southern California, the Cardinal continued to exhibit both elite defensive play and stretches of offensive inconsistency. The weekend started strong, as the Cardinal relied on strong defense and well-rounded scoring to cruise to victory against the Trojans.
Junior forward Kailee Johnson established the tone from the first possession of the game, blocking a close-range shot from Temi Fagbenle, the Trojans’ leading scorer and rebounder. Despite coming into Friday’s game playing some of the best basketball of her career, Fagbenle struggled mightily against the Cardinal frontcourt, finishing with 11 points on 5-of-12 shooting from the field.
The Cardinal got off to an unusually quick start on offense, scoring 18 points in the opening quarter, including 5 fast-break points. Playing through junior guards Lili Thompson and Karlie Samuelson, the Cardinal used their quickness and passing ability to set up open looks without falling into the half-court sets that they have struggled in this season.
After its hot start, Stanford was able to rely on its strengths, defense and rebounding to hold on to the lead for the rest of the game. Five days after relinquishing a late lead to Oregon State, the young Cardinal were able to avoid turnovers and play efficiently on both sides of the ball, leading to a much-needed conference win.
“At one point, I looked and there were two freshman, two sophomores and a junior out there,” Cardinal head coach Tara VanDerveer noted after the game. “We did a better job defensively in the second half.”
Offensively, the Cardinal were paced by Samuelson and junior forward Erica McCall, who each had 14 points. Sophomore forward Kaylee Johnson added 13 rebounds, continuing her strong stretch of play.
The Cardinal were unable to carry their performance on Friday into Sunday night’s game against UCLA. Facing a Bruins team that leads the Pac-12 in scoring, the Cardinal were able to slow down the pace of the game, which theoretically would neutralize the Bruins’ offensive advantage. However, the Cardinal did themselves no favors early, missing eight of their first nine shots and trailing 10-2 after seven minutes of play.
After having one of their best games of the season on Friday, the Cardinal backcourt had one of their worst on Sunday. Thompson in particular struggled on offense, making just one of her nine 3-point attempts and finishing with 5 points, well below her season average of 14.3.
Despite the slow start to the game, the Cardinal rallied back at the end of the first quarter, only to be knocked out of the game after a woeful second quarter. The Cardinal finished the second quarter with twice as many turnovers (eight) as they had points. On the other end, the Cardinal had no answer for Monique Billings, who helped extend the Bruins’ lead to 14 at the half.
With the Cardinal’s lackluster offensive play, the lead was more than enough. A red-hot shooting performance from Kari Korver pushed the lead to 23, allowing the Bruins to sub out their starters and coast to the final buzzer.
McCall led the Cardinal with nine points and 11 rebounds, the second time this season the Cardinal have failed to have a player record double-digit points.
After four games on the road, the Cardinal return to Maples Pavilion on Friday, where they will face Washington.
Contact Sanjay Srinivas at sanjay_srinivas ‘at’ stanford.edu.